Local teen launches petition against bill allowing school staff to carry guns, encourages others to find their voice - East Idaho News

Local teen launches petition against bill allowing school staff to carry guns, encourages others to find their voice

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IDAHO FALLS — An Idaho Falls teen is challenging Idaho House Bill 415, advocating against the legislation that would allow school staff to carry guns on campus. She has started a petition urging the Senate to reject the bill and is encouraging others to voice their opinions.

Rachel Durfee, 17, a senior at Thunder Ridge High School in Idaho Falls, says she realized she “had to do something” after reading and researching the bill.

“Being a debate kid … I decided to look into it a bit. I found the bill, and I read through it, and I just found a lot of red flags,” Durfee tells EastIdahoNews.com. “I guess I just started getting really worked up about it because it just seemed like it was a really big deal.”

The purpose of House Bill 415 is to address a “desperate need to make our schools secure from individuals that desire to inflict harm on students.”

The legislation, which the National Rifle Association backs, would grant school employees — from teachers to librarians to volunteers — the right to carry guns on public school campuses, as long as they have an enhanced concealed weapons permit.

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Despite opposition from school trustees, administrators and teachers, as well as concern from law enforcement officials, Republicans advanced the bill through the House on Jan. 31, 2023.

Durfee started a petition the same day, encouraging the Senate to fail the bill.

“I’m hoping that, if it gets enough signatures, our senators will realize that the people in our community (their constituents) don’t want this and that the passage of the bill would be detrimental to schools in Idaho,” she says.

Her debate and government classes have helped her understand politics and fed her interest in world events. Nevertheless, she has “never done anything like this before.”

RELATED | Idaho Republicans advance bill to arm school staff

Starting the petition has brought her in contact with people who agree and disagree with her point of view.

“People (have) actually brought up a couple good points that I hadn’t even thought of,” she says. “I think the main argument I got from people who (agree) with the bill was that some teachers feel unsafe going to schools because they can’t protect (themselves).”

She says she thought that was a valid argument, which made her rethink her opinion.

“I don’t know at this point where I stand with teachers having guns in schools,” Durfee says. “I just disagree with this bill, specifically, because there’s a lot of things it would achieve that are more than just teachers having (guns) in schools.”

Rachel Durfee
Rachel Durfee | Courtesy photo

The most important thing she has learned through this process is that people need to speak up, no matter what they believe.

“I would say, if anyone is particularly passionate about this bill not being passed — or if they’re passionate about (wanting) this bill to be passed — I would strongly recommend emailing their senators,” Durfee says. “(Lawmakers) knowing what their constituents want is really, really important.”

Durfee thinks teens should be interested in politics and government. Teens will one day be the legislators, she says. Being involved now will help her generation become leaders of the future.

“I feel like being involved, especially around high school age, is really important because if you’re not politically knowledgeable now, it’s less likely you’ll be politically knowledgeable in the future,” she says.

Here are some of the concerns Durfee lists in the petition:

  • You don’t fight fire with fire. Bringing more guns to the scene will only create chaos and put students in danger.
  • School boards and administrators know their community better than Idaho (legislators) do.
  • Parents aren’t being assured of their children’s safety.
  • Teachers may leave to work in a different state.

For more detail on these and other concerns with the bill, check out Durfee’s petition and see if you agree.