Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guns on Campus Bill

Recently, an Idaho State Representative introduced a bill that would have made it illegal for public colleges and universities to prohibit firearms on their campuses except within undergraduate housing. HB 222 passed the House State Affairs Committee and the Idaho State House of Representatives. It was killed in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

I was against this bill the minute I heard about it. Of course, usually any legislation that rolls back gun regulation is on my black-list automatically, but this bill was especially offensive.

The fact that Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, introduced this bill would anger me enough; what is most unforgivable about this piece of would-be legislation is that he did not talk to any of the colleges or universities before he wrote it. 

I am a student at North Idaho College, and I feel safer there than I did at my high school in Sandpoint. Most likely this is because I trust the security force that NIC employs. They have Taser guns and not a day goes by that I don’t see one of them in even the farthest corners of the campus. If there is a situation they cannot handle, the Coeur d’Alene police are only minutes away, and some officers are on campus already.

I know that almost any of the instructors, administrators, or even my fellow students would help me if I needed it. We are a community, and I am never afraid to walk on campus, a woman alone, even at night.

NIC has not had a threatening incident with a gun in over three years, and the school came out against the bill, just like Boise State University, University of Idaho, College of Southern Idaho and Idaho State University. Law enforcement, International Association of Campus Law Enforcement, Western Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and the State Board of Education all stated their opposition as well.

If this bill had passed, I would have felt very exposed. I do not care for guns: they make me nervous, and there are few people I consider mature enough to handle a gun responsibly. To have guns allowed on my college campus would have made me fearful in an environment that I have come to feel extremely safe in.

I contributed to the conversation in the best way I could come up with. I wrote to my state senator, asking her to vote against the bill in the event that it reached the Senate, and I wrote to my state representative, thanking him for voting against the bill in the House, where it passed despite his vote.

This bill was full of holes, and one of the greatest problems with the bill was that it specifically allowed firearms at athletic events. Sports tend to bring out adrenaline and encourage tribal behaviors, both of which contribute to violence.

The other problem with the bill was that it did not permit public colleges or universities to regulate firearms in places like daycares. Had this bill passed, someone with a concealed weapon could go in to the Children’s Center at NIC, and no one could do anything about it.

I personally believe guns have no business in any learning environment, and to force them on educational institutions, ignoring their wishes, is simply irresponsible.

I am proud that the Senate State Affairs Committee voted against this ill-conceived bill. I know I breathed a sigh of relief, and the administrators I talked to felt the same way.

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