Otter signs campus guns bill into law

newsroom@idahostatesman.comMarch 12, 2014 

New law Idaho Gov. Butch Otter on Wednesday signed into law SB 1254, the bill to allow people with Idaho’s enhanced concealed carry permit to bring guns on Idaho public college and university campuses.

Heated criticism Heads of all eight of the state's public colleges opposed the bill, arguing it would strip policy-making power from universities, stymie recruitment efforts and put those on campus at risk. The bill also sparked a protest that drew hundreds to the Capitol. Otter, who didn’t receive the bill until Tuesday, was pushed to veto it in recent days by the mothers of shooting victims in college mass shootings across the nation, and by Idaho student leaders.

Second Amendment reigns Otter said he backed the bill to protect Second Amendment rights, which already have some exceptions. “This is not the circumstance to carve out another,” Otter wrote. “We all will be watching closely to ensure the interests of Idaho citizens are served while their constitutional freedoms are protected.”

Shut-out police chief: ‘It was inevitable’ After Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson and two other police chiefs from cities with public universities or colleges were shut out of a Senate committee hearing on the bill last month, Masterson said the public dialogue on the issue greatly increased. "From reading the polls it looks like overwhelmingly people are against guns on campus, but the governor and his Legislature want to see it a law, so we will just start preparing for how we will respond to complaints of people carrying weapons on campus," he said Wednesday.

What could it mean for Otter? Aside from perhaps agriculture, the NRA is the most powerful interest group in the Idaho Republican Party. Vetoing the bill would have been a huge gift to Otter's more conservative primary opponent — Sen. Russ Fulcher — quickly altering the landscape in the May 20 primary.

In the November general election, however, Democrat A.J. Balukoff may attempt to draw a line between 2nd Amendment rights that he says he supports and guns on campus.

Issues goes national NBC's "Today Show" featured the campus guns bill on its Thursday morning broadcast. The segment included Boise State professor Greg Hampikian, whose op-ed piece "When May I Shoot a Student?" was published recently in the New York Times. Watch the "Today Show" segment below:

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