The Idaho Senate voted 25-10 to pass a guns on campus bill, following vehement opposition from law enforcement officials and leaders from Idaho's public universities. The vote followed nearly 90 minutes of debate on the floor of the Idaho Senate and a controversial Feb. 12 hearing where Nampa Republican Sen. Curt McKenzie—sponsor of the bill—cut off testimony before the Senate State Affairs Committee without hearing from law enforcement leaders who had traveled from throughout Idaho to plead with lawmakers not to pass the measure.
The bill, which now moves onto the House, allows retired law enforcement officers and individuals with so-called enhanced concealed weapons permits to carry their weapons onto the campuses of Idaho colleges and universities, with the exception of arenas and meeting halls that hold 1,000 people or more.
"We think it's better to do this with legislation instead of in the courts," McKenzie told his Senate colleagues during the Feb. 18 debate, which went from late morning until early afternoon.
When Ketchum Democratic Sen. Michelle Stennett rose to ask McKenzie a question about the bill, things quickly became chilly on the Senate floor.
"Will the Senator yield for a question?" asked Stennett.
"No," replied McKenzie.
Instead, Stennett, arguing against the bill, said she was simply going to ask McKenzie what his definition of a concealed weapon might be. Needless to say, he didn't respond.
"Would you check for permits at classroom doors? Would you check for permits every time someone enters a dormitory?" asked Stennett.
Again, no response.
But Meridian Republican Sen. Marv Hagedorn argued in support of McKenzie's bill.
"If I were a bad guy, I think I would go to a college campus," he said. "No one in this room has a sign in our front yard that says, 'I don't have any guns.'"
Pocatello Democratic Sen. Roy Lacey, voting against the measure, said the bill smelled of politics.
"Anyone who votes no on this bill will be tagged as 'anti-Second Amendment' or 'anti-gun' and I'm afraid that many here will vote yes for this because of that reason," said Lacey. "This is not the Western way. Idaho doesn't like a top-down push. We need to listen to our law enforcement on this."
Boise Democratic Sen. Elliot Werk insisted that Idaho campuses were much safer because of their firearms restrictions.
"Do you want to go to a safe place? Go to a college campus," said Werk. "I'm concerned that we are continually being asked to go further and further and further to protect Second Amendment rights. It's a never-ending continuum. What's the next thing to come before this body that will have the National Rifle Association behind it?"
Following the debate, the Idaho Senate passed the bill with only three Republicans—Sens. John Goedde, Coeur d'Alene; Dan Johnson, Lewiston; and Shawn Keough, Sandpoint—joining Democrats to vote no.
The bill now heads to the Idaho House, where it is expected to surface before the House State Affairs Committee.