‘Terrorism is upon us,’ Idaho lawmaker says as House OKs bill for concealed guns in school - East Idaho News

‘Terrorism is upon us,’ Idaho lawmaker says as House OKs bill for concealed guns in school

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BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — A bill to allow any public school employee with an “enhanced” concealed weapons permit to carry a gun in hallways, classes and lunchrooms across the state passed the Idaho House on Wednesday.

House Bill 415 would require teachers or other employees who want to carry guns to notify their principal, but it does not require them to notify their local school board or students and parents.

The Idaho Association of School Resource Officers and the Boise School District opposed the bill, as did other districts and teachers unions.

“Terrorism is upon us,” Rep. Edward Hill, R-Eagle, told other lawmakers on the House floor. He said there is a “desperate need to secure our schools against this threat” and to close the “chasm of vulnerability” when it comes to school shootings.

Enhanced permits include requirements that a person be 21 or older, have taken an 8-hour gun course, submit to a background check and have lived in Idaho for at least six months.

Records of which school employees are armed would be kept sealed and shared only with local law enforcement. The bill also would require that public schools remove their “gun-free zone” signs.

“Idaho House Bill 415 would remove local control from elected school boards to determine which, if any, staff would be allowed to carry firearms on campus,” Idaho Association of School Resource Officers President Morgan Ballis said in a statement, noting that 95% of school shooters are students who could be stopped if they are identified as threats. “This legislation is a drastic misprioritization of statewide school safety initiatives with a focus on response over prevention.”

Idaho has no behavioral threat assessment requirements for public schools, does not require “trauma-informed” school drills, and does not define school resource officers in law, meaning the state has no minimum standards for school officers, Ballis said. The new bill does not implement such standards.

“This bill misses the mark by demonstrating a deliberate indifference in aligning our state to emergent research and best-practice recommendations in active shooter response,” she said.

Despite over an hour of debate and concern from a number of lawmakers that the bill would force guns into school districts that don’t want them, or undercut school districts that allow guns in schools with stricter requirements, it passed 53-16.

“My concern with this bill is it cuts those guys off at the knees,” said Rep. Jack Nelsen, R-Jerome, referring to schools in his district that have developed their own policies on guns. “It’s going to take that right of the local school board away to make local decisions.”

Rep. Dan Garner, R-Clifton, asked Hill whether any superintendents in the state had asked him to bring forward the legislation.

“No,” Hill said.

Garner voted in favor of the bill.

Rep. Julie Yamamoto, R-Caldwell and a former school principal, said she elected to carry a gun in her school after her school board implemented a policy, but lamented that parents would have no way of knowing whether their child’s teacher is carrying a gun. She voted against the bill.

Rep. Greg Lanting, R-Twin Falls, who also voted against the bill, said the Twin Falls School District told him it would immediately lose its insurance policy if this bill became law. It now heads to the Senate to see whether that happens.

Rep. Mark Sauter, R-Sandpoint, said he had “real concerns” about the bill because it lacked training requirements. “That’s what I was really looking for, and I’m not seeing that,” he said.

Sauter then voted to pass the bill.

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said the bill was opposed by the Idaho PTA, the state’s teachers union and many school boards, noting that these groups would be “in the line of fire.”

“This bill is about forcing it upon the communities that don’t want it,” she said. “There once was a time when the Republican Party supported local control, and I think today would be a great day to get back to those roots.”

National studies have shown the U.S. has much higher rates of gun deaths than other peer countries. The U.S. also has the highest rate of per capita gun ownership, according to the Small Arms Survey, and some of the least restrictive guns laws in the world.