Legislation drafted by the National Rifle Association to allow guns on college campuses is on its way to becoming law in Idaho, despite overwhelming opposition from those who actually attend, work at and run colleges and universities in the state.
The bill to allow guns on campuses passed the Idaho House this week by a vote of 50-19, despite opposition from the leaders of all eight public universities and colleges, the Associated Press reports. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) is expected to sign it into law, having earlier declared his support for the legislation.
Colleges in the state are currently allowed to decide whether or not to allow firearms on campus, which has in effect kept schools gun-free. However, the new bill would compel all public institutions to allow the weapons on school grounds.
According to the Spokesman-Review, the NRA had a heavy hand in pushing the bill, even presenting it in the legislature:
NRA lobbyist Dakota Moore presented the bill in its first Senate committee hearing instead of its sponsor, Nampa Republican Sen. Curt McKenzie.
Opponents of the bill weren't allowed to speak at that hearing, including the chiefs of police from Boise and Moscow, home to the state's two largest university campuses.
When the bill came up for its House committee hearing, everyone got to speak -- and the testimony ran for seven hours, overwhelmingly against the bill.
Thursday's House debate ran for an hour and a half, with more opponents than backers speaking out. But in the end, the bill passed on a 50-19 vote, with six Republicans joining the House's 13 Democrats in opposing it.
College students delivered a six-inch stack of petitions to Otter's office Friday in a last attempt effort to derail the bill, according to the Spokesman-Review. The stack included nearly 3,000 signatures on a petition against guns on campus, and personal letters from 752 students.
Idaho university officials warned lawmakers the new law could cost them millions in lost revenue, and could potentially end nuclear research on campus, since the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not allow firearms in licensed research facilities.
According to Boise Public Radio, the financial cost could be passed on to students and taxpayers:
Boise State University calculates about an extra $2 million a year. Idaho State University estimates at least $1 million. North Idaho College put the additional cost at roughly a $250,000 per year.
"With the passage of this bill, you're putting millions of burden back to the institutions and primarily back to students and taxpayers," said Mark Browning, a spokesman for the Coeur d'Alene-based school.
Idaho's Board of Education voted unanimously to oppose the measure. Effectively, the bill would remove campus anti-gun policies and allow people to bring concealed weapons to class.
One Boise State professor, Gregory Hampikian, attracted national attention last week when he penned a satirical op-ed asking "When may I shoot a student?" pointing out that having potentially armed students in the classroom is untested at his metropolitan school.
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