POCATELLO – Idaho State University could lose its license to conduct nuclear research from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission if a bill to allow concealed weapons on college campuses becomes law, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said.
The Idaho State Journal reported that Otter made the comments Friday to about 30 people attending a meeting with ISU’s College Republicans.
Otter said ISU President Arthur Vailas told him Thursday that the commission has a zero-tolerance policy regarding weapons at licensed nuclear research facilities, putting the school’s nuclear research efforts at risk, if the bill becomes law.
“I had never heard that before,” Otter said.
A bill allowing concealed weapons on Idaho’s college campuses passed the Senate 25-10 on Tuesday. The House State Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the bill Thursday.
“I think there’s going to be some additional consideration given,” Otter said about the committee meeting. He declined to say whether he would sign or veto the bill should it arrive on his desk.
Under the current measure, only retired law enforcement and those with Idaho’s enhanced concealed carry permit – which requires an eight-hour training class and firing 98 rounds every five years – would be allowed to have a gun.
The bill also bans firearms in dormitories and stadiums and carries harsher penalties for those who tote a gun while intoxicated or on drugs.
Second Amendment advocates say allowing guns on campus gives those on campus a way to protect themselves and acts as a deterrent to criminals. Those who oppose it say it makes the learning environment unsafe.
Vailas said the university’s vice president for research and economic development, Howard Grimes, told him about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s zero-tolerance policy concerning weapons.
The school does nuclear research at the Idaho Accelerator Center and the new Research and Innovation in Science and Engineering Complex on Alvin Ricken Drive. Vailas said U.S. Department of Energy employees are prohibited from working at places that have guns and that some department employees spend time at both ISU facilities.
“A great deal of our research portfolio is in the energy field and nuclear at least here in Pocatello and Idaho Falls,” Vailas said. “The big question is: How much does the state of Idaho benefit from energy research?”
Heads of all eight of Idaho’s public universities and colleges have spoken out against the bill, as has Boise police Chief Mike Masterson.
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