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Idaho committee OKs guns-on-campus bill

Boise Police Chief Michael Masterson speaks out against HB 222, the guns-on-campus bill, to the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday. (Betsy Russell)
Boise Police Chief Michael Masterson speaks out against HB 222, the guns-on-campus bill, to the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday. (Betsy Russell)

BOISE - An Idaho legislative committee has voted 11-8 in favor of legislation to permit guns on the state’s college and university campuses anywhere but in undergrad student dorms - over the objections of law enforcement, the colleges and the state Board of Education.

“It’s a basic human right to be able to protect yourself from those who intend to do you harm,” said Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, the bill’s sponsor. “Those rights are being overturned by Idaho colleges and universities who are creating a false sense of security for students, faculty and staff and the public by creating gun-free zones.”

Matthew Dogali of the National Rifle Association told the House State Affairs Committee, “You can carry in any sporting event that is not on a college campus right now. So it doesn’t make any sense why Bronco Stadium is different than a hockey stadium.”

Parrish Miller told the lawmakers, “This is a trend, this is a movement to protect the people’s right to bear firearms. ”

The committee’s three North Idaho members all voted in favor of the bill. They are Reps. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake; Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls; and Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene.

Four Republicans and four Democrats voted against the measure, HB 222.

Among those testifying against it were representatives of the Boise Police Department, the state Board of Education, the University of Idaho, Boise State University, Idaho State University, and the College of Southern Idaho.

Emily Walton, a BSU student, told the committee, “Students are not asking for this to happen. … Honestly, we think it’s crazy.”

Charlotte Twight, a BSU professor of economics who said she was speaking only for herself, said she thinks people with concealed weapons permits, like her, should be able to carry their guns on campus. “Permit holders have taken a class and know their legal responsibilities,” she said. “I narrowly escaped being attacked on campus after dark a few years ago. … Existing policy announces to criminals that we are defenseless on campus.”

The bill doesn’t affect only concealed weapons permit holders; it would permit anyone to openly carry a gun on any Idaho campus, except in undergraduate residence halls. Representatives of both the UI and BSU said that’s problematic, as in many cases, undergraduates and graduate students are housed together in the same units.

Anderson said he never knew about the campus gun bans before the bill came up. “We probably run a bigger risk here (in the state Capitol), with some of the angst of the citizenry, and in this institution we have a right to carry,” he said. “I’ve been around guns all my life. Guns are for protection and for sport.”

The bill now moves to the full House.