BOISE – Over the objections of college presidents, police chiefs and the state Board of Education, the Idaho Senate voted Tuesday to allow college students to carry concealed guns on campus.
The bill applies only to public college and university campuses, and exempts dormitories and indoor venues that seat more than 1,000. Only students 21 and older who have a state permit, or retired law enforcement officers, could carry concealed weapons on campuses.
Senate Bill 1254 now moves to the House, where it’s expected to pass. Republican Gov. Butch Otter has already indicated he supports it on Second Amendment grounds.
The vote Tuesday was 25-10, with three Republicans joining the Senate’s seven Democrats in opposing the bill. All three were from North Idaho.
One, Sen. John Goedde, of Coeur d’Alene, said he is conflicted about the bill.
“I am in favor of local control, but I also respect the Second Amendment,” he said, noting that a despondent North Idaho College student was recently arrested on campus with a gun and 70 rounds of hollow-point ammunition. “We were just lucky that we didn’t have a problem,” he said.
Sen. Shawn Keough, a Sandpoint Republican, noted that some lawmakers backing this year’s bill had a hand in writing the section of code being amended. “I supported the bill that the same sponsors brought to us in ’08 that gave the colleges and universities the responsibility of governing this on campus,” Keough said.
The aspect of local control appealed to her as a Republican, she said.
Keough said she found it “distressing that the same people who brought this policy to us now are clothing themselves in the Second Amendment to take it away.”
Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, raised a number of concerns about the bill, including that it would permit some college students to carry guns, but not his 19-year-old son, a military combat veteran.
Sen. Curt McKenzie, a Nampa Republican who is the bill’s lead sponsor, told the Senate, “The end result of this is that qualifying faculty or students at our universities will no longer be prevented from exercising a fundamental right to self-defense and constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
To qualify to carry a concealed gun on campus, a student would have to have Idaho’s new enhanced concealed weapons permit, which requires people to be 21 or older and go through an eight-hour training course that includes live firing.
McKenzie said the university officials’ objections should carry some weight with lawmakers. But, he said, “What should carry more weight with us is the individual liberty right of Idaho citizens, and I think this promotes that in a careful way.”
Police chiefs from around the state opposed the bill but were blocked from testifying at an earlier committee hearing on the measure when McKenzie didn’t call them to speak. Students objecting to the bill also weren’t called on to testify.
McKenzie deferred to National Rifle Association lobbyist Dakota Moore to present the bill. Moore had the floor for 40 minutes of the three-hour hearing.