Local news

SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2011

Firearms bill worries campus

Boise State says events would be jeopardized

BOISE – Boise State University could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue from lost sporting and entertainment events if Idaho lawmakers approve a bill to allow guns on college campuses, a school official says.

Bruce Newcomb, the university’s director of government affairs and a former speaker of the Idaho House, said such a law could jeopardize hosting events such as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the scheduled 2012 NCAA Division I men’s and women’s indoor track and field championships.

“We’re convinced this is going to interfere with those endeavors,” Newcomb told the Idaho Statesman.

The Idaho House on Wednesday approved a bill that would allow firearms on public university and college campuses. It now goes to the Senate.

If it becomes law, it would prohibit schools from banning firearms, either carried openly or by people with concealed weapons permits, anywhere on campus except in undergraduate residence halls. Guns would be allowed at athletic events.

Idaho law now gives university and college presidents authority to prohibit firearms on campus. Boise State University, Idaho State University, the University of Idaho, Lewis-Clark State College and several community colleges throughout the state have adopted their own regulations to prohibit guns on campus.

Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, co-sponsored the current legislation and disagrees that schools would experience any negative ramifications. He also wondered how the school knows guns aren’t being taken on campus already, especially because he said he’s often carried guns to Boise State venues.

“My question would be to Boise State: How do they know people aren’t carrying guns there now? None of those venues have metal detectors. They don’t say to the visitors or the ticket-holders, ‘Don’t bring your guns because this is a gun-free zone,’ ” Hagedorn said. “I have never seen anything. I have carried to a lot of those venues, and I did not know the policy, nor did I see any signs.”

Boise State spokesman Frank Zang said the campus has more than 1 million visits annually by people attending hundreds of sports, cultural and entertainment events.

“We are concerned that allowing guns on campus would have an adverse effect on attracting these events to Boise,” he said. “The industry standard does not allow weapons in the facilities.”

Creston Thornton, a concert promoter with CT Touring, said weapons are not allowed at concerts either. Taco Bell Arena, on the Boise State campus, has hosted concerts by the Dave Matthews Band, Toby Keith, Metallica and Journey.

“We don’t even allow glass bottles because they can be used as weapons. It’s just assumed there’s a no-weapons policy,” said Thornton.

Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, said passing a law allowing guns on campus would not stop the NCAA men’s basketball tournament from coming to Boise State, where early-round games have been held eight times since 1983, most recently in 2009.

But the NCAA in its 2009 operating manual for the tournament states that “firearms and explosives of any kind are not permitted.”

The University of Utah, however, held part of the NCAA women’s gymnastics championship. Utah does not allow firearms bans on college campuses.

“It’s a red herring,” said Simpson. “There is no truth to it. It is not a condition of them appearing on a campus. It’s a guideline. It’s a policy. I don’t think policy is going to trump state law.”


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