Gov. Butch Otter said Thursday that he believes the state of Idaho has done as much as it can to prepare for and deter a mass shooting at a school.
But that is no guarantee that Idahoans are safe from risk, Otter said one day after a 19-year-old killed 17 people at a Florida high school — the deadliest school attack in five years, according to the Associated Press.
“I can’t tell you that we’re danger-free,” the governor said during a forum put on by the Idaho Press Club.
Otter largely declined to discuss gun ownership and gun laws amid, once again, national disagreement on whether tighter gun control would prevent some mass shootings. The gunman behind Wednesday’s shooting used a legally-purchased AR-15 rifle.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“I don’t feel comfortable ... saying what kind of weapons that the public ought to have available to them,” Otter said. Asked why a teen would need a rifle like an AR-15, the governor argued that a 50-year-old could buy one “and do just as much damage.” He continued: “I guess I don’t get the gist of your question.”
Otter did say he believes existing laws address the situation. In particular, he cited a federal law that bars people convicted of misdemeanors involving domestic abuse from possessing firearms.
That law is not comprehensive — and because it’s only a federal statute, it has created loopholes that allow abusers in some cases to get their weapons back. Just Tuesday, Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, proposed a similar law on the state level. Otter said after the forum that he supports the concept, though he deferred any sort of direct comment on Wintrow’s bill until it reaches his desk.
Asked what the state should do to avert mass shootings, Otter pointed to changes made several years ago across Idaho schools: putting phones in classrooms, limiting entrance points.
“Most of those doors are one-way doors now,” he said.
He described how even he and first lady Lori Otter have to sign in at the front desk and have an escort when they tour a school.
His comments were largely limited to school preparations, though he also said the rest of the community must remain alert. He offered the example of a Seattle-area high school student arrested Tuesday after the teen’s grandmother discovered a journal describing plans for a school shooting.
“I think we’ve done what we can do,” Otter said.