BOISE -- A bill to allow college students and professors to carry guns on Idaho campuses won approval from the House State Affairs Committee Thursday morning. The bill now heads to the full House of Representatives for a vote.
If the bill becomes law, people at Bronco Stadium or the Morrison Center could legally carry concealed weapons if they hold a permit. Teachers and students with the legal permit could also bring guns to class. The only place universities could prohibit guns is in undergraduate campus housing.
Boise State officials testify against bill
Before the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Boise State's Executive Director of Campus Security (a former FBI agent) and a Boise Police Lieutenant testified against the bill.
"We believe that adding weapons to a university environment would serve as an accelerant for conflict and violence, not a deterrent," Boise State University's Frank Zang said.
BSU officials say guns on campus would be unsafe, especially considering the young population of students already in the stressful situations that come with college life.
"When you add the potential of having guns on campus into that equation, it really does create a much more dangerous situation," Zang said.
Some professors and students support bill
Dr. Charlotte Twight, a professor of economics and an attorney, says campus would be less dangerous if some teachers, faculty, and students were armed.
"We're sitting ducks," Twight said. "If you do not have people able to carry on campus when they've got concealed carry permits, essentially you're announcing to the world that the people on the campus are defenseless."
In supporting the bill, Twight points to research by another economist, John Lott, showing decreased crime rates where carrying concealed weapons is allowed. She also says those who have permits have to go through training to get certified.
"Somebody with training is the last person that's going to ever pull a weapon or use a weapon inappropriately," Twight said.
Twight has a concealed weapons permit, and she says in certain circumstances, if it were legal, she would bring her gun to class. She added weapons used to be allowed at BSU.
"When I was first here and for some years after that, concealed carry was allowed. There was no rule against it, so it shouldn't be frightening. It's the way it always was," Twight said.
Some students say they feel like having people in the public armed would not only act as a deterrent, but could also perhaps stop a tragedy.
"Of course the use of the firearm is the last step, but I think that if we had them, we could've prevented occurrences like Virginia Tech," Student Chris Scott said. "Had we had students and teachers with firearms, I think we could have definitely limited the damage done."
BSU says support on campus is limited
The University says its preliminary feedback shows those professors and students who support the bill are in the minority. Zang says most feel safer without guns in the hands of the public.
"To be honest with you when it comes to public opinion on campus, students feel safe already," Steven Mercado, ASBSU Senator At-Large, said. "We have the Boise Police Department that actually helps out a lot to keep it safe, and I don't think we're in the age of dueling, so I don't think we need anybody to conceal weapons on themselves and be able to protect themselves on campus when we already have that protection."
"In a way this bill proposal is a solution to a nonexistent problem," Zang added.
Second Amendment Rights
For those in favor of the bill, it's not just an issue of safety. They also say their Constitutional right to bear arms should extend to public university and college campuses.
The bill text includes language expressing a need to protect "the individual citizen's right to bear arms guaranteed by Amendment 2 of the United States Constitution" as well as those guaranteed in the Idaho State Constitution.
Boise State says its attorney believes its within the university's legal rights to prohibit guns on campus.
Potential problems attracting events
Zang also says BSU may have problems attracting sporting events, concerts, or shows if concealed weapons are allowed on campus. He says some performers or organizations outline in their contracts and rules they will not participate in events at places where concealed weapons are allowed.