March 25, 2011 in Idaho

Idaho senators kill guns-on-campus bill

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Betsy Russell photo

Members of the Senate State Affairs Committee listen to testimony on HB 222 on Friday morning, the bill to permit guns on campus at Idaho colleges and universities. The bill earlier passed the House.
(Full-size photo)

BOISE - Idaho senators killed the guns-on-campus bill Friday, after a two-hour hearing in which proponents of the measure said students who have concealed weapons permits aren’t “drunken frat boys who would stumble about campus firing indiscriminately.”

On the Senate State Affairs Committee, hearing the testimony, was Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, whose 23-year-old son was shot to death at a college keg party after a beer-splashing clash with fellow student who had a concealed weapons permit.

Davis told University of Idaho law student Jonathan Sawmiller, who was speaking in favor of HB 222, “My 23-year-old son was shot eight years ago last week by a concealed weapon permit holder. Both BSU students. Off campus, at a college environment. I know for you, that you served our country nobly, I thank you for it. I trust you. But there are others that I have concerns about. This is not an intellectual exercise for me and my family. To you and your successors who speak here today, please be sensitive in couching your remarks.”

Sawmiller, who said he’s an Iraq war veteran and Boise State University graduate, told Davis, “I am very sorry for your tragic loss,” then resumed his comments in favor of the bill, which would remove Idaho state colleges’ and universities’ ability to ban or regulate guns anywhere on campus other than in undergraduate residence halls.

It was opposed by the colleges, the state Board of Education, and law enforcement. But Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, the bill’s sponsor, told the senators, “It’s a basic human right to be able to protect yourself,” and said current law that permits Idaho colleges and universities to ban guns on campus creates “a false sense of security.”

Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, proposed amending the bill, saying he’s concerned about venues like football stadiums. The measure as written would prevent universities from banning guns anywhere on campus, including at arenas and stadiums.

But Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said, “By considering such an amendment as has been described by Sen. Fulcher, we are acknowledging that there are times and places where guns are not appropriate on college campuses, yet in our typical legislative arrogance we’re saying we know better where those places and times are,” than do university officials.

Said Hill, “Once again, our lips preach local control, but our hearts are far from it.”

Fulcher’s motion then died on a 3-6 vote, with just Fulcher, Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, and committee Chairman Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, supporting it. That was it; there was no further action.

McKenzie said after the meeting that he won’t bring the bill back up for consideration, so it’s dead for the session.

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