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Eye On Boise

New guns-on-campus bill introduced, ‘very lively debate’ promised

The Senate State Affairs Committee this morning, without objection, voted to introduce a new bill to allow concealed firearms on Idaho public college campuses under certain circumstances; the same panel has rejected such legislation in past years. “It’s an issue that relates to a fundamental one in our state Constitution,” Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, told the panel; he chairs the committee, but handed the gavel to vice chair Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, so he could present the bill. “The people have the right to keep and bear arms, which is a fundamental right that we put in our Constitution. This addresses that particular right on college campuses. … We’ve tried to craft a bill that both protects that constitutional right, but also takes into consideration the concerns that were expressed in committee and in testimony as well as over the summer and otherwise.”

McKenzie said the new bill would allow only retired law enforcement officers or people who have Idaho’s new enhanced concealed carry permit, which requires more rigorous training then the state’s regular concealed weapon permit, to have concealed weapons on public college campuses. Plus, there would be exemptions, not allowing concealed weapons in dormitories or residence halls, or in large entertainment venues with seating for 1,000 or more.

The bill also adds on to an existing law that makes it a crime to carry a concealed weapon while under the influence of alcohol or an intoxicating drug, McKenzie said. “We enhanced the penalty for that, so you would actually lose your license as well as any other penalty,” he said. He told senators on the committee that if they introduce the bill, “We will have some very lively debate.”

Several committee members had questions about provisions in the bill. Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, asked what various legal citations in the measure referred to; Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, pointed out that one pointed to an exception for self-defense or defense of others who are threatened, and asked how that would interact with the dormitory exception. “I think that would apply in a situation, like if someone in a dorm room is being attacked and calls for help,” McKenzie responded, “and you go in and protect their life, that’s not going to be a crime.”

Without comment, Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, moved to introduce the bill, and Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, seconded the motion. It passed, clearing the way for a full hearing in the committee.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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