BOISE -- Last Tuesday, Feb. 26, the House State Affairs Committee introduced a bill that would allow citizens with enhanced license to carry concealed weapons in public schools without disclosure to school personnel.
Bill sponsor, Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon, says this legislation will protect children as “gun-free zones are a soft target.”
Under the current law, local school districts can allow certain persons with concealed weapons permit to carry firearms in schools upon permission from the school board.
This legislation, however, would allow citizens with an enhanced concealed carry permit to carry in public or charter schools and wouldn’t be required to tell school personnel.
Similar to a concealed weapons permit, an application must be filled out for an enhanced permit in addition to being 21-years or older and completing an eight-hour training. According to the Ada County Sheriff’s Department, the training goes over the basic concepts of firearm safety and handling, self-defense principles and live fire training where the student must fire at least 98 rounds.
Christensen said that if the bill passes, he will contact all county sheriffs for quarterly training school personnel in decision-making during an active shooting and suspicious situations.
“I want teachers and anyone in the school to sit back and protect the children, not to go out and confront a bad guy,” Christensen said during the meeting. “My intent is to have a relationship with law enforcement and the teachers and the school staff…so we know who’s carrying in schools,” he said later.
Committee member, Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, expressed his concern for the lack of awareness to teachers and other school personnel.
“It makes our kids less safe in school for one huge reason and that is: a school principal who is charged with the supervision of an elementary school cannot ask somebody if they have a gun,” Gannon said during the meeting. “A school principal needs to have the authority to investigate and to maintain the security and safety of our kids….”
Reps. Gannon and Kevin Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, spoke to the aspect of the bill that would take away the choice for local school districts to allow firearms on campus.
“I like the concept of protecting with being armed, but I also am a fan of local control,” Andrus said during the meeting.
Although the committee didn’t take public testimony, several volunteers of Moms Demand Action For Guns Sense in America filled the committee room and two overflow rooms.
Jenny Lingle, a native of Idaho and member of Moms Demand Action said the organization opposes the bill and believes forming multidisciplinary threat assessment teams would diminish gun violence in schools.
“Having unknown armed civilians involved can really complicate law enforcement response to active shooter incidents because law enforcement just doesn’t know who the ‘good guy’ or the ‘bad guy’ is,” Lingle said in an e-mail.
Among opposition, Christensen said that many schools in his district support the legislation and some already allow firearms in their schools.
“For example, Bear Lake, most teachers there are already carrying through the permission of the school board. So, it’s highly favored in my district, with the exception of Teton County,” Christensen said during the hearing.
Other sections in the bill state that the person must keep “immediate control” of the firearm, meaning that possession must be “on or within one’s own clothing or in a manner so that no other person may easily gain control,” and employees who choose to carry can’t be disciplined by schools or school districts.
The committee eventually introduced the bill with a divided vote. The bill will get a public hearing.
“I’m not in love with this bill, but I do think that these hard conversations about guns and our constitutional right and protecting our children need to be had,” Andrus said.
Cheyenna McCurry is a legislative intern with the James A. and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research in Boise, and a student in the University of Idaho School of Journalism and Mass Media.