Owners of firearms and an enhanced permit are a step closer to being able to carry weapons on Idaho college campuses, a move that Second Amendment advocates say will boost personal safety and allow people to exercise their constitutional rights.
But police chiefs from three cities with public universities or colleges were shut out of the committee hearing on the bill Wednesday, said Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson.
Masterson said democracy failed Idahoans at the Capitol by not allowing a full airing of issues surrounding the bill.
I am just appalled that a decision would be rushed through this quickly, Masterson said.
He said Sen. Curt McKenzie, the bills sponsor and chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee, where the hearing was held, effectively silenced police chiefs by not calling them to testify.
Where is our democracy today when police leaders directly responsible for developing policy and training for your safety are effectively silenced by the chair of a committee who introduced the bill himself? Masterson asked.
Masterson, who opposes the bill, is chief of Idahos largest city, which is home to the states largest university, where Boise police provide security.
You would think I have something to say, he said.
Masterson said that the National Rifle Association got 40 minutes to explain the bill. But McKenzie said the NRA took 20 minutes and spent another 20 minutes answering questions from the committee.
A representative of Idahos Fraternal Order of Police, which has 1,500 members, testified in support of McKenzies bill.
McKenzie said he did not try to silence police chiefs. He had more people who wanted to testify than there was time and he alternated pro and con. He also said he let university officials explain their concerns about the bill, and even let many of them go over the three-minute time limit.
McKenzie has said he has the votes in both the House and the Senate to pass the bill.
Boise State University psychology professor Kimberly McAdams was among those testifying. She said she backs guns on campus and described her terror when a former student threatened to kill her last month. McAdams said bringing a gun to class would give her a fighting chance to save her own life and protect her students in a crisis.
I shudder to think what would happen in the worst-case scenario, she said.
McKenzies bill would allow people who have an enhanced concealed weapons permit to carry guns on campus, except in dormitories, residence halls and entertainment venues that seat more than 1,000 people. The enhanced permit requires eight hours of training and is recertified every five years.
Bruce Newcomb, Boise States lobbyist and the former Republican House speaker, questioned whether that permit was enough to prepare someone for a high-stress situation.
When there is a gun in the hand of a person who only gets training one day in five years, well, I think thats irresponsible, Newcomb said.
If the bill passes the full Senate, it likely will go to the House State Affairs Committee, which also will hold hearings.
Bill Roberts: 377-6408, Twitter: @IDS_BillRoberts