BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A bill to allow students, staff and visitors to carry guns on Idaho's college campuses passed the House State Affairs Committee in a party-line split.
Lawmakers voted 11-3 Friday afternoon to send it forward to debate on the House floor, over objections from the majority of people who testified before the committee.
Backers of the bill say letting those with Idaho's new enhanced concealed carry permit holders to carry guns to class could halt a would-be mass shooter. But others say a loophole in the bill will allow those permit holders to openly wield firearms anywhere on campus — including in dormitories and at football games.
The bill passed the Senate earlier this month with a 25-10 vote.
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Idaho lawmakers were expected to pass a bill Friday that would allow concealed carry permit holders to arm themselves on college and university grounds, despite opposition to the measure from multiple police chiefs and leaders of all eight of the state's public colleges.
The legislation, which passed the Senate 25-10 earlier this month, allows retired law enforcement officers and those with Idaho's new enhanced concealed carry permit to bring their firearms onto campus. Concealed weapons would still be barred from dormitories, stadiums and concert halls.
If it passes, Idaho would join six other states with provisions — either from lawmakers or dictated by court decisions — that allow concealed carry on campus: Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Utah is the only state with a specific law that forbids universities from banning concealed carry at any of its 10 public institutions.
Students and professors were among hundreds who protested against the bill on the Statehouse steps on Thursday. Testimony was ongoing in the House State Affairs Committee, and a vote in the full House was slated for Friday afternoon.
The bill will likely be interpreted as allowing open carry on campus, State Board of Education member Rod Lewis told the committee.
"Can you imagine the classroom where a student enters the room and lays down a gun on the desk?" he asked.
Most students confronted with such a scenario would likely leave the class out of fear for their own safety, he said.
But Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane told the committee that colleges, under the legislation, could still block open carry by setting their own firearms policy.
Kelby Monks, a Boise State student and son of committee member Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian, told the committee that carrying a weapon in a classroom could stop a would-be mass shooter quickly — even while police were still minutes away.
"It does not take more than 30 seconds to empty out an entire clip," he said, adding that concerns about law enforcement confusing good Samaritans with criminal shooters during a crisis situation are overblown. "I'd rather die and be shot by a police officer than have an entire auditorium of my classmates killed," he said.
And Bryan Lovell, president of the Fraternal Order of Police and a Bonneville Sherriff's deputy who favors arming law-abiding citizens on campus, said responding officers would likely have a good idea of who they were up against before arriving at the scene.
"Cops don't just come in guns a-blazing, shoot first ask questions later," he said.