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Idaho House backs guns on campus, 41-28

The Idaho House debates HB 222, the guns-on-campus bill on Wednesday. (Betsy Russell)
The Idaho House debates HB 222, the guns-on-campus bill on Wednesday. (Betsy Russell)

BOISE - The Idaho House has voted 41-28 to allow guns on the state’s college campuses, over the objections of the colleges, the state Board of Education and law enforcement.

“It is a basic human right to protect yourself from those who intend to do you harm,” Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, the bill’s sponsor, told the House. “Ladies and gentlemen, gun-free zones don’t work.”

Most of North Idaho’s representatives voted in favor of the bill; four of 12 representatives in districts 1-6 opposed it. The measure removes the ability of state colleges and universities to regulate guns on campus anywhere but in undergraduate residence halls; it would allow them at athletic competitions, in classrooms, at campus events and more. Idaho colleges now ban guns from campuses in most cases.

“I don’t think this bill is perfect, I think there are some issues with it,” said Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake. “However, I do believe that the right to protect oneself is a fundamental right, and with that, I will be voting for this bill.”

The four Panhandle representatives who voted against the measure were acting Rep. Julie Chadderdon, R-Coeur d’Alene; Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover; Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow; and Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow.

Among North Idaho lawmakers debating in favor of the bill was Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, who said, “The thing that saddens me about the whole thing is that we’ve been debating over an hour on the constitutional privilege that people have in this country to pack a gun. It just behooves me as to why we want to take people’s constitutional rights away.”

Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, shared a story about an incident from when he was in college at the University of Utah, and a woman who worked in the nearby university hospital was trying to decide whether to carry a gun because an ex had threatened to kill her. “She decided that she would not carry the gun, what she would do is carry a whistle,” Hart told the House. “Shortly thereafter … he met her in the parking lot. … He killed her. She blew her whistle and nobody came. Her whistle was filled with blood when they found her body.”

Opponents said the bill would make Idaho’s college campuses less safe, not safer. “This is not the wild, wild West. This is academia in Idaho,” said Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise.

The bill now moves to the Senate.