Currently none of our state-run universities honors a private citizens rights to bear arms. Senate Bill 1254 corrects that by providing a limited right to carry on certain parts of our campuses.
The opponents of SB 1254 have argued that we should not allow 18-year-olds to carry firearms on campus, that we should not allow guns in dorms or at sporting events, and we need to protect against guns in the hands of those under the influence of alcohol. These arguments misstate what SB 1254 actually does.
First, the bill allows only retired law enforcement officers or those with an enhanced concealed-carry permit to carry a firearm on campus. That means a citizen must be at least 21 years old, because the enhanced carry license is available only to Idaho citizens 21 and older who have gone through an extensive background check and training.
Second, the bill prohibits firearms in dorms or at any venue that seats 1,000 or more.
Third, it is already a crime to bear a firearm while under the influence of alcohol, and this bill enhances the penalty.
The opponents ask why we need this bill, as if there is ever a bad time to protect individual liberty from government regulation. The words of John Locke are still true today: The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.
This bill preserves and enlarges freedom in a limited and thoughtful manner on public land.
The fears that this bill would decrease safety are not supported. Other states allowing it in some degree include Oregon and Utah, and more states are joining them. There was not a sudden surge of gun violence on their campuses.
This bill increases safety because now faculty and older students who might have to walk through secluded areas of campus at night will have the right and ability to carry a firearm for protection, as long as they are retired law enforcement or have obtained an enhanced carry license.
The state cannot hire enough security guards or put up enough security cameras to protect Idahoans all the time on large open campuses. The government should not take away our right to protect ourselves.
Curt McKenzie is chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee.