State Board opposes college gun bill

A supporter of letting some people carry concealed firearms on campus says private rights trump concerns of the schools.

broberts@idahostatesman.comFebruary 4, 2014 

State Board of Education members cited student safety as they voted unanimously Monday to oppose the bill by Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Boise, Senate State Affairs chairman.

The bill would allow retired law enforcement people and those with an enhanced concealed weapons permit to carry guns, McKenzie said.

An enhanced permit means the person is 21, a citizen of Idaho, has gone through a background check and eight hours of training.

The bill would allow concealed weapons on campuses except in dormitories and residence halls and in entertainment venues with a seating capacity of at least 1,000 people.

“We have to protect our students,” said Milford Terrell, a board member from Boise. “I feel very strongly about having guns on campus.”

Board member Bill Goesling of Moscow also expressed concern for the safety of public school students who could be attending events on Idaho college campuses.

The Idaho Constitution, however, says that right exists, McKenzie said. When government workers on public lands butt up against the private rights of citizens, the citizens should get more weight, McKenzie said.

Idaho university and college presidents also oppose his proposal.

On Monday, University of Idaho interim President Don Burnett said he was satisfied with the existing Idaho law that leaves it up to campuses to decide. No research, he said, showed more guns on campuses made them safer.

“Currently, there is little rigorous empirical research on gun safety relating to college campuses, and what research does exist has not demonstrated that safety is enhanced by increasing the number of concealed-carry weapons on campus,” Burnett said.

Boise State University President Bob Kustra also said lawmakers should leave decisions like this up to schools.

“We feel strongly that our campus security officers and our local law enforcement officers are in the best position to manage campus security, not a state law that does not benefit from the actual law enforcement experience of our local police force,” Kustra said.

Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts

The Associated Press contributed.

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