What Happened: Idaho lawmakers voted to allow concealed guns on the campuses of all state public colleges, over the objections of eight public university presidents, the Board of Education, and other anti-gun groups. The NRA-drafted bill now goes to Republican Gov. C.I. “Butch” Otter for his signature – and as a Second Amendment backer, he’s likely to approve it.
The law would allow armed students or teachers to defend themselves during a shooting or other violent act, say supporters. Idaho would become the seventh state – after Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Missouri, Kansas, and Wisconsin – to permit carrying concealed weapons on public college and university campuses. Existing Idaho law leaves it up to individual colleges and nearly all of them have banned it.
Why It Matters: Idaho college officials who oppose the law say it would cost millions, requiring them to beef up safety measures on campus by adding armed security officers, training exercises, ballistic equipment, and metal detectors for areas where guns would still be prohibited (public stadiums, etc.). The law would also effectively end government-funded nuclear research at Idaho State, as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not permit firearms in licensed research facilities.
The increased costs would be passed on to students and taxpayers. Boise State University calculates those costs at an extra $2 million a year and Idaho State, at least $1 million. “What’s the justification for this financial knee-capping of colleges?” said state Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) on Thursday, The Spokesman-Review reported, while state Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa) said, “What [is] the price of an individual’s freedom and their personal safety? What price tag would you put on that?”
Public colleges and universities are the latest battleground in the war over gun laws in the U.S. as gun-rights supporters push to expand the right to carry concealed weapons. The effort gained traction after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, in which 33 people were killed – but as gun tragedies have continued in public places, passion on both sides has ramped up.
What It Means for You: If your children attend or visit these schools, they’re not safe. Numerous studies have shown that where there are guns, there are more deaths. Even if a gun owner on campus is responsible, his or her friends, classmates or teachers may not be. Just one drunken brawl or angry exchange could mean unspeakable tragedy, which is why police chiefs and others oppose the measure. “I’m very uncomfortable with the thought of our campus and others in Idaho being the testing grounds … in an experiment with an unpredictable outcome,” said Boise State president Bob Kustra.
Most of the nation’s 4,400 colleges and universities currently prohibit the carrying of firearms on campus. If the Idaho bill becomes law, anyone who obtains an enhanced concealed-carry permit after taking an eight-hour course could carry a gun on campus, except in dorms, stadiums and other public facilities.
Update: Gov. Otter signed the bill into law on March 12, 2014.
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