BOISE -- Dozens crowded the Idaho Statehouse Friday to testify before the House State Affairs Committee about a bill that would allow a limited group of students, staff, and others to carry guns on college campuses.
Presidents of all eight public universities and multiple police chiefs oppose the bill, and more than 200 people protested against it on the Capitol steps Thursday.
After six hours of testimony, largely from people opposed to the legislation, the House State Affairs Committee voted along party lines 11-3 to send it on for debate in the House with a recommendation to pass it.
Republican Sen. Curt McKenzie of Nampa, who is the bill's sponsor, said Friday morning that he was surprised by the extent of the opposition.
He said he addressed all the concerns from universities and colleges that sank a previous version of the bill in 2011.
McKenzie noted that six other states have passed similar bills.
Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane testified the bill allows colleges and universities to ban the open carry of firearms if they chose to, but would not extend to citizens with concealed weapons permits or retired law enforcement officers.
However, questions to the bill's exact wording regarding open carry of firearms remain.
We do think that this law allows open carry, but as far as I'm concerned, we at Boise State are opposed to any carry on the part of people who are not law enforcement officials, said Boise State University President Bob Kustra, who spoke out against the bill.
Provisions in the bill specifically don't allow the concealed carry of weapons inside a student dormitory or residence hall, or public entertainment facility with seating for at least 1,000 people, such as Bronco Stadium.
However, the bill does not specify if the open carry of firearms would be allowed in these places. Will lawmakers clarify these points?
College and university administrators argued there is too much incertainty in the bill. Many said if passed, it will cost schools a lot of money to put up signs and add metal detectors to certain buildings.
Boise State President Bob Kustra told KTVB he's adamantly against the bill. Right now, guns are not allowed on campus and anyone who is carrying a concealed weapon is excorted off school grounds by police.
We're going to continue our advocacy of the bill's defeat and do everything we can to kill this legislation, Kustra said Friday.
Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson also testified in opposition of the bill.
Masterson was notably not allowed to testify against the bill in a previous Senate hearing after lawmakers cited a time constraint.
A number of committee members addressed the crowd before voting on the controversial bill.
Several who voted for it to move forward said it will allow people on college campuses to protect themselves against violent crimes. But at least one Democrat who voted against the bill argued the piece of legislation shouldn't be rammed through before serious questions, including those surrounding open carry rules, are addressed.
SB 1254 now goes to the House floor for debate and possible approval.If the bill passes the House, it would then go to Governor C.L. Butch Otter for approval.
The Nampa Republican's bill passed the Senate 25-10 earlier this month.