Under current Idaho statutes, school staff who possess an enhanced concealed carry license can carry on campus, so long as the local school board has given permission beforehand. Under a bill that cleared the Idaho House by a 52-18 vote on Thursday, however, school staff could carry even if their local school board doesn’t approve.
Rep. Chad Christiansen, the author of HB 122, says this isn’t an issue about local control but instead is a Second Amendment issue.
He noted that the Idaho Sheriffs Association, state chiefs of police, and schools all oppose the bill, but said his local sheriff from Caribou County “fully supports” it. “This is a bill about school safety and our children,” Christensen said. “The firearm is a tool, simple as that, and the fear of this tool is, I don’t get it, it’s just a tool, to help our children, to save lives.”
This bill also would forbid schools from posting “Gun-Free School Zone” signs. House Education Chair Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, asked Christensen if the bill would allow the general public to carry guns at schools; Christensen said no. So Clow questioned including that provision. “To me, that’s a sign that we’re telling the public, ‘Don’t bring your guns in to the school,’” he said.
Christensen said his thinking was that since school staffers would be allowed to concealed-carry, “it wouldn’t apply in that case as a gun-free school zone.”
“To me that is a target saying you can come into our schools and shoot us up,” Christensen declared. “Those need to go.”
Opponents of the measure argued that the bill is severely flawed, pointing to the objections from police agencies and many county sheriffs.
Rep. Chris Mathias, D-Boise, debated against the bill. “Our school districts already have the ability to authorize school employees to carry firearms on school grounds,” he said. “The police chiefs are opposed to this, sheriffs are opposed to this, the schools are exposed to this.”
Mathias said because the bill specifies that those staffers carrying concealed guns would have no duty to protect students, it adds risk to schools without any benefit.
He asked, “The bill’s design is to create opportunities where a good guy with a gun can stop the bad guy with the gun, but if weapon holders don’t have a duty to perform like our law enforcement officers do, what’s the point of exposing our children to all the risk?”
I hate to break it to Rep. Mathias, but law enforcement has no duty to protect individual citizens either. In Castle Rock vs. Gonzales the Supreme Court ruled that even though police in the town of Castle Rock, Colorado failed to enforce a restraining order and a woman’s three children were murdered by her estranged husband as a result, law enforcement had no specific mandate to enforce that law.
The provision that Mathias mentioned is basically boilerplate legalese designed to prevent a school district from being sued if an armed staff member either did not or could not respond to armed attacker. I think it’s fair to say that those armed school staff members would be more than willing to intervene if necessary to save the lives of their students, even if the bill doesn’t require them to do so.
While the legislation sailed through the House, its prospects in the state Senate are unknown. Christiansen has introduced similar legislation in past sessions, but the bills never made it out of committee, so we’re swimming in uncharted waters with this bill. We’ll be watching closely to see if and when HB 122 receives its first Senate hearing in the coming days.