UPDATE: Feb. 28, 2014 4 p.m.
Following six hours of testimony from scores of Idaho citizens testifying nearly four-to-one in opposition, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee voted 11 to 3 in the late afternoon of Feb. 28 to approve the so-called guns-on-campus bill, sending it the full Idaho House—the final hurdle before the measure presumably heads to the governor's office for his ultimate decision.
Friday's committee vote was strictly along party lines, with the body's 11 Republicans all voting in favor of Senate Bill 1254 and three Democrats voting no.
After dozens of students, parents, professors and law enforcement had their say in front of the committee, Boise State President Bob Kustra walked to the microphone and said he was "mystified why our friends in the Legislature are insisting on this in spite of the objections of almost everyone."
Kustra wondered aloud what his campus would look like once signage began being constructed at Boise State, indicating where weapons would or would not be allowed, particularly at Taco Bell Arena and Bronco Stadium.
"And once we put up a sign saying 'no guns," the liability shifts to us when there is a gun and something goes wrong," said Kustra.
Former Idaho House Speaker, and current Boise State spokesman, Bruce Newcomb asked the House committee, "What's the emergency here?"
"If you think this bill was a collaborative bill and we were part of the process, it wasn't," said Newcomb. "It was a silo process. My suggestion is this: instead of ramming this bill through, invite all the stakeholders to the table.:
Then, Newcomb likened the guns-on-campus bill to another recent controversial chapter in the Idaho Legislature's history: the Luna Laws.
"We already went through something like this on Props 1, 2, and 3," said Newcomb, referring to Idaho voters overturning the Legislature's vote to approve the controversial education measures crafted by Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.
But Newcomb's former Republican colleagues were having none of it, and powered through their vote to pass the guns-on-campus bill, sending the measure to the full House with a "do pass" recommendation.
ORIGINAL POST: Feb. 28, 2014 12 p.m.
The Idaho House State Affairs Committee gaveled into session at 8 a.m. Friday morning facing a full house set to testify on Senate Bill 1254—the so-called guns-on-campus measure. More than three hours later, the committee was still going through its list of attendees who had made their way to the Capitol to testify, most of them in opposition.
"We're approaching the witching hour," said Committee Chair, Iona Republican Rep. Tom Loerstscher, looking at the clock. "We're going to have to depart. We'll take a break here and come back about 1 p.m. We still have 19 people signed up to testify."
The morning was packed with testimony, beginning with the bill's sponsor, Sen. Curt McKenzie. The Nampa Republican chose to introduce his own legislation, as opposed to when the bill was introduced in a Senate State Affairs Committee hearing, where McKenzie turned to a lobbyist from the National Rifle Association to unveil the bill.
"Would you rather that no one be armed but the murderer?" McKenzie asked the committee in pushing for his legislation, which would allow enhanced concealed weapons permit holders to carry weapons onto the campuses of Idaho public universities and colleges.
But a steady string of stakeholders pushed back against McKenzie's bill, including officials from Idaho's universities, teachers, students and law enforcement from across Idaho.
Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson, who was stunned when he and other stakeholders were not allowed to speak at the Senate committee hearing chaired by McKenzie, challenged the House lawmakers to engage with stakeholders before moving forward with such an effort.
"Create a commitment to bring back (the bill) during the next session involving your law enforcement leaders, teachers, students and, yes, even the NRA," said Masterson.
"We don't know [who's bad and who's good]. We go to where shots are fired and we take action," said Moscow Police Chief David Duke. "If [the bill] passes, we will change our training."
"My experience and common sense tells me that putting firearms in our classrooms and campus venues is, quite simply, not a good idea," University of Idaho's interim President Don Burnett told the panel.
"Campuses are extraordinarily safe places," said Idaho State Board of Education President Don Soltman. "This bill is not about safety."
"This bill significantly erodes our ability to effectively govern and manage campuses," said Mark Browning, vice president of North Idaho College.
"This bill is bad policy," said University of Idaho general counsel Kent Nelson. "The law would introduce weapons on campus without our ability to determine if the weapons are properly there or not."
"Either this bill has been poorly drafted or this bill has been falsely advertised," said State Board of Education member Rod Lewis. "Passage of this bill would set our institutions back significantly, and maybe irreparably."
“This dialogue is alive and well on campus," said Max Cowan, president of the Associated Students of the University of Idaho. "While consensus is difficult, we want to make this decision close to home. We value autonomy."
And while the bill's proponents were clearly outnumbered 4 to 1 in Friday's testimony, their arguments were fervent.
"I have spent countless hours honing my [gun] skills," said Callie Sands, who said she was a part-timel teacher from McCall. "It's important for people to be able to protect themselves. Where do lunatics go? they go to the soft targets."
"I personally know plenty of people that actually cary on campus," said Boise State Student Kelby Monks, the son of Meridian Republican Rep. Jason Monks, a member of the committee. "So guns are already on campus whether universities like it or not."
"The universities keep moving the goalposts," said former Rep. Erik Simpson. "This is why we need this bill. We have nothing in statute."
Committee Chairman Loertscher said he was intent on allowing everyone who had signed up to testify to have their say, but it will require a rare second session in the same day.