Idaho Ed Board votes to fight guns on campus bill

Idaho Ed Board votes to fight guns on campus bill »Play Video
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho State Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to oppose a bill aiming to allow guns on college campuses, saying they worry it could undermine efforts to boost safety on university grounds.

Additionally, all of Idaho's university and college presidents said they opposed a measure being considered in the Idaho Legislature this year, in part because they fear it could create confusion in the event of a shooting, especially if more than one person drew a weapon.

Trustee Bill Goesling of Moscow, the University of Idaho's location, said he fears police won't be able to discern between an armed shooter wreaking havoc on innocent students — and those people who have drawn their weapons in defense.

"I would be confused who the bad guy was," Goesling said at the short meeting, before the 6-0 vote.

Trustees were reacting to a bill now before the Senate State Affairs Committee that would allow retired law enforcement officers and people with Idaho's enhanced concealed-carry permit to bring firearms to campus. It's being promoted by Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, among others.

A similar measure failed in 2011, but proponents are pushing ahead with this measure, in part because they want to bolster 2nd Amendment rights they say are being undermined by campus bans. They also contend arming more people on campus, especially with accompanying training, will be a deterrent to violent shootings and enhance personal safety.

Were it to pass, Idaho would join Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin in allowing concealed weapons on campus.

Idaho currently allows university leaders to set policies on such matters. Guns aren't allowed on campuses at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho State University in Pocatello, Boise State University or Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, as well as the state's three community colleges.

McKenzie couldn't be reached for comment.

So far, however, Idaho university and college presidents have rejected his proposal.

On Monday, University of Idaho interim President Don Burnett said he was satisfied with the existing Idaho law that leaves it up to campuses to decide. No research, he said, showed more guns on campuses made them safer.

"Currently, there is little rigorous empirical research on gun safety relating to college campuses, and what research does exist has not demonstrated that safety is enhanced by increasing the number of concealed-carry weapons on campus," Burnett said.

Boise State University President Bob Kustra also said lawmakers should leave decisions like this up to schools.

"We feel strongly that our campus security officers and our local law enforcement officers are in the best position to manage campus security, not a state law that does not benefit from the actual law enforcement experience of our local police force," Kustra said.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, a member of the State Board, said he agreed allowing people to carry weapons on campuses could heighten dangers. For instance, he said, he's been told by law enforcement that they would likely shoot everyone with a gun during a response to such a shooting, rather than attempt to try to decide who was the perpetrator.

"They'll shoot them both. They're there to protect kids," Luna said.

Still, he urged state officials and university leaders not to merely offer opposition to "guns on campus" measures, but to actively develop their campus security policies. Every time a campus shooting occurs, he said, the debate will rage over how best to protect students — including allowing guns.

"Somebody is going to fill this void where they think there's lack of a program in place to provide as much security and protection as possible," Luna said. "This isn't the last time we're going to see an effort like this."