March 26, 2011 in Idaho

Senate committee rejects gun bill

Legislation would allow weapons on campuses
By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – Idaho senators killed a bill to permit guns on the state’s college campuses Friday, after a 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.”

Among members of the Senate State Affairs Committee hearing the testimony was Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, whose son was killed at a college keg party after a beer-splashing clash with a fellow student.

“My 23-year-old son was shot eight years ago last week by a concealed weapon permit holder,” Davis told University of Idaho law student Jonathan Sawmiller, whose comments in favor of House Bill 222 included the “frat boys” reference. “Both BSU students. Off campus, at a college environment.”

He told Sawmiller, an Iraq war veteran and Boise State University graduate, “I trust you. But there are others that I have concerns about. This is not an intellectual exercise for me and my family.”

Sawmiller 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.

The bill 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.” He said the current law that permits Idaho colleges and universities to ban guns on campus creates “a false sense of security.”

Marty Peterson, special assistant to UI’s president, told the committee that the university, its faculty, its associated students, and the Moscow Police Department all oppose the bill. Every college in Idaho, public or private, bans firearms on campus except for law enforcement officers, he said, and for good reason.

The UI is being sued by a law student who wants to keep guns in his on-campus housing. “We believe that the courts, rather than the Legislature, is the appropriate place for this to be decided,” Peterson said.

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