State Politics

‘Keep our kids safe’: Otter, legislators say new school threats law is great step

Gov. Butch Otter assembled a large group of backers as he signed the school threats bill into law Friday.

“It is signed, and it is now law, because it has an emergency clause,” he said to loud applause.

The bill, HB 665, expands Idaho’s current law regarding school threats to include threats of violence made from off-site, including by phone or social media. Threats would be misdemeanors, but having a gun or other deadly weapon in furtherance of the threat would be a felony.

Otter called it “a bill that is well thought-out,” and said, “They’ve done a tremendous job as far as I’m concerned of crafting a beginning piece of legislation for trying to stop school violence.”

Close to 2,000 people, most of them high school and junior high students, rallied against gun violence at the Capitol 10 days ago, and Saturday’s March for Our Lives rally brought thousands more people to the Statehouse in Boise.

Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, a retired police officer and U.S. marshal and one of three co-sponsors of the bill, said: “It’s a response to those that demonstrated here at the Capitol a week or so ago, that wondered what government was going to do. And government has started to respond, and we are committed to respond. We are committed to keeping these campuses and these instructors and these students safe, and we’re going to continue the battle.”

Otter noted that Idaho has not had extreme incidents that have taken place in other states.

“... I’ve talked to my colleagues in Florida and Texas and Maryland and other places any time there is (a shooting). Generally we find out that some threat or some accusation was made off campus, or was made on campus and nobody paid any attention to it,” Otter said. “So with these folks’ help, I think we begin the process of making sure that we’re doing everything we possibly can to keep our kids safe while they’re in school.”

Paul Jagosh of the Fraternal Order of Police joined Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, and other lawmakers in touting the new law.

“Our most valuable resource is our children, and we must do what we can to keep our children safe, and governor, I agree with you – this is a good first step, but there is still more work to do,” Crane said.

Horman added, “Let’s keep in mind why we’re really here today, and that is our students.”