Eye On Boise

FRIDAY, FEB. 28, 2014, 9:13 A.M.

Testimony: ‘Bad law,’ ‘Universities keep moving the goalposts,’ ‘Bill is not as advertised’

Rod Lewis, general counsel for Micron Technology and a member of the state Board of Education, testifies against the guns-on-campus bill on Friday (Betsy Russell)
Rod Lewis, general counsel for Micron Technology and a member of the state Board of Education, testifies against the guns-on-campus bill on Friday (Betsy Russell)

In continuing testimony on SB 1254, the guns-on-campus bill today:

Tony Fernandez, president of Lewis-Clark State College, said, “The rate of murder and manslaughter on college campuses is 40 times less than that observed in the general population.” Idaho’s college campuses are very safe, he said, and, “SB 1254 would be bad law.” He said lawmakers and the public “should seriously question if it will make our safe campuses any safer.”

Erik Simpson, former Republican state representative from Idaho Falls, said a 2008 law that he supported “didn’t give universities carte blanche authority to regulate firearms.” He maintained that universities can’t ban guns now, saying, “The universities keep moving the goalposts – that’s what’s happening here.”

Max Cowan, president of the Associated Students of the University of Idaho, said there’s been a lively debate on his campus about the bill. While people have differing opinions about guns on campus, he said, “We know we have the capacity to make these decisions for ourselves. We value local control. … This bill removes our power to be parties with our institution in setting our own policies.” Cowan told the committee, “I ask that you vote against this bill and trust in us to make decisions for ourselves.”

Rod Lewis, member of the State Board of Education, said, “The problems with SB 1254 are numerous. It has not been well thought out. … It was drafted with no consultation with stakeholders. ... This bill is not as advertised. It is not a concealed-weapons bill. … It is an open-carry bill. With all due respect, Sen. McKenzie is incorrect. Open carry is allowed.” Lewis, general counsel for Micron Technology, asked what would happen if a student came into a classroom, laid a gun on the desk and began fiddling with it. “Most likely, a number of the students in the classroom would leave out of concern for their safety,” Lewis said, and the professor might do the same. He called the bill “completely opposite to what has been advertised and communicated,” and said, “Either this bill has been poorly drafted or this bill has been falsely advertised. … Passage of this bill would set our institutions back significantly, and perhaps irreparably.”

Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, asked Lewis if he'd support the bill it were changed to address the open-carry question. He said, "Not necessarily," saying, "What I support is a dialogue" between all affected parties about how best to promote safety on the state's college campuses. "Let's listen to leaders on the ground - that is always good policy," he said.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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