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Guns on Campus PDF Print E-mail

Representative Erik Simpson (Idaho Falls) proposed a bill (H 222) to override local policies to not only allow the concealed carry, but also the open carry, of guns on public university campuses (excluding undergraduate dormitories). This measure is opposed by the Idaho State Board of Education, local law enforcement, campus police, and all eight of Idaho ’s public institutions of higher education, including Boise State University , University of Idaho , and Idaho State University .

Representative Simpson said his bill is in response to an ongoing lawsuit against the University of Idaho for prohibiting a student from keeping firearms in his on-campus apartment.  At present, students must store and check in their guns with law enforcement before entering school grounds.

The bill overrides local policies and requires institutions to permit students to carry guns on campus. This despite the fact that criminal gun possession (defined as the possession of a legal firearm with intent to use it unlawfully, possession of an illegal firearm, or possession of a legal firearm without a permit) is highest in the 18 -24 age group. 

In the committee hearing, Emily Walton, a BSU student, testified that, “Students are not asking for this to happen. … Honestly, we think it’s crazy.”  John Uda, the executive director of security at Boise State University , described the college years as a process of “tremendous… personal development [and] adding a weapon to a university environment will serve as an accelerator for conflict, not a deterrent.” If students engage in activities like binge drinking and drug use, adding a gun to the scene does not make a school safer, but far more dangerous. 

Universities are required by federal law to maintain safe environments for those who choose to step onto their campuses. This provides the authority to decide by what means they accomplish this goal. Jerry Beck, the president of the College of Southern Idaho , said, “Let the people who have the responsibility of keeping our education safe put in place the policies and procedures that we need to have.” 

What would officers do if they came into a lecture hall of students and found a dozen or so pointing guns at each other? How would they be able to distinguish the instigators from the respondents? Of the 11,192 murders in 2003 involving a gun in the United States ; only 10 happened on college campuses, none happened in Idaho schools.

However, while the occurrence of a school shooting is relatively rare, 1,100 college students commit suicide every year and 24,000 more attempt it. With a gun, the success rate of the suicide attempt is more than 90%. 

When talking about allowing guns on Idaho campuses, factors like suicide as well as assault should be considered.  This is especially important since suicide is the second leading cause of death for Idahoans aged 15-34, which is approximately the age group that college students fall inside.  In addition, the legislature in 2009 zeroed a two year funding commitment for the crisis service.  If there are guns on campus, but no Idaho Suicide Hotline, will the Legislature have shirked its responsibility to make sure people at risk will be kept safe?


Over my opposition, H 222 passed 41 -28 in the House. It now moves to the Senate State Affairs committee for a vote. If you wish to comment on this legislation you can contact members of this committee by using the Choose a Senate Committee drop down menu, choosing State Affairs, hitting Search, and then leaving a message.
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