Idaho lawmakers to consider allowing guns on campus

(Twin Falls) Times-NewsJanuary 28, 2014 

Idaho college students should be allowed to carry guns to class as long as they hold an enhanced concealed carry permit, said one state lawmaker Monday.

Presenting a new bill to the Senate State Affairs Committee, Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, said his proposal would permit retired law enforcement officers and people with Idaho's enhanced concealed carry permit to bring firearms on campus, even if there was a gun ban on university property.

"The people have the right to keep and bear arms, which is a fundamental right we put in our Constitution," McKenzie said.

Enhanced concealed carry permit holders must be over the age of 21, complete an eight-hour certified course and participate in live fire training.

The bill would still ban all guns from dormitories along with facilities with more than 1,000 seats, such as stadiums. And gun holders under the influence of alcohol or drugs would have their permit revoked for three years.

The bill unanimously breezed through the Senate committee.

McKenzie promised, however, there would be more lively debate once the bill comes back for a full committee hearing.

"My inclination is that this is not the safe thing to do," said state Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, to the Times-News.

Law enforcement officers are trained several times throughout the course of their career to handle live shooter situations, she said. This bill only requires permit holders to complete firearm training once.

Stennett added that most campus security guards do not carry firearms, meaning the bill could end up pitting security guards against armed students.

This isn't the first time Idaho lawmakers have tried to allow guns on college campuses. In 2011, McKenzie attempted to prohibit campuses from restricting any sort of gun ban. The bill failed in the Senate after getting approval in the House.

If approved, Idaho would join a small number of states that have approved guns on public college campuses. So far, only Utah and Colorado have lifted firearm restrictions on university property.

Yet McKenzie's proposal was submitted following a tense week of campus shootings starting Jan. 20 where a student was injured by a gunshot at Widener University near Philadelphia, continued by a death of a Purdue University teaching assistant the next day and a Jan. 24 shooting at South Carolina State University.

There are some places in society where guns shouldn't be allowed and college campuses are one of them, said spokesman Doug Maughan.

The college's current policy dictates that anyone who brings a gun on campus must check it in with security, he said.

"This has come up before and despite a few administrative changes, the board is still steadfast in that they don't see the sense of allowing guns on campus," he said. "You can expect our board will oppose this."

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