Editorial: Gun policies must be chosen by universities


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Idaho’s state legislature passed a law allowing guns on college campuses even though many people involved with the colleges oppose the bill. The legislation has yet to be signed by Gov. Butch Otter.

Editorial Board

The National Rifle Association has never been afraid to make some waves. Their tough stance on the rights of gun owners and gun enthusiasts cannot be questioned. Similarly, there can be no doubt as to the tenacity with which they lobby for their interests. What can be questioned, though, is their capacity for common sense.

Make no mistake, the Second Amendment is vital to our nation’s founding principles, and a reasonable defense of Americans’ rights to bear arms should never be suppressed. Unfortunately, the NRA and many of the legislators they support have taken that defense to an untenable extreme.

Earlier this month in the Idaho legislature, a bill was introduced by NRA lobbyist Dakota Moore that would do something many NRA members might dislike. It would take away local policy control in favor of a centralized government mandate. As the text of the bill itself reads, “It is the legislature’s intent to wholly occupy the field of firearms regulation within this state.”

Apparently this is all well and good, provided that centralized government mandate grants increased rights to gun owners. The bill itself would disallow universities, state colleges and community colleges from regulating or banning the possession of firearms on their campuses. Although an exception is made for residence halls and “public entertainment facilities,” there is still extensive disapproval of the bill.

Opponents of the bill, which include the chiefs of police of Boise and Moscow, Idaho, presidents from all eight affected institutions, the Idaho Board of Education, university faculty and college student leaders were not allowed to speak at the first state Senate committee hearing of the bill, but made their concerns clear to the Idaho House of Representatives. Their more than eight hours of public testimony, mainly in opposition to the bill, had little effect on the minds of the legislators.

The House and Senate have both passed the bill, which now only requires Gov. Otter’s signature to become law and take effect July 1. Otter has already suggested that he intends to sign the bill, agreeing with it on Second Amendment grounds.

If the bill does become law, it will harken a substantial win for the NRA, but will hurt those it claims to be protecting. According to Boise State Public Radio, Idaho State University expects to spend $1 million and Boise State University foresees an increased cost of $2 million in order to provide the increased campus security, safety training, metal detectors and other changes the proposed law would necessitate.

Idaho Rep. Brent Crane (R) responded to these claims, asking fellow Rep. Ilana Rubel (D), “What do you think the price of an individual’s freedom and their personal safety is?”

Crane has a point. We should not dismiss public safety simply because we do not want to pay for it, but the idea that having more guns increases safety is by no means settled. It may be true that having guns on campuses could decrease the amount of deaths due to mass shootings, since students and faculty could feasibly shoot back, but this is a simplistic notion that only addresses a small portion of gun related crimes.

The legality of firearms on college campuses, like many other government regulations, should take into account the concerns and needs of those affected. Whether or not college campuses in general would be well served to allow guns is not entirely clear, but in the case of Idaho’s colleges, it is clear that those guns are not wanted.

The common sense solution would be to listen to those closest to the problem, but that just is not the NRA’s style. They seem to prefer an indiscriminate, “guns blazin’” approach. Sounds about right.