The House State Affairs Committee gaveled in early this morning to take up House Bill 222, the controversial measure that would allow concealed weapons to be carried on Idaho public college and university campuses.
Following nearly two hours of testimony, the committee voted 11-8 to send the bill to the full House with a do-pass recommendation. Four Republicans crossed over (Representatives Carlos Bilbao, Max Black, Janice McGeachin and John Stevenson) to join four Democrats (Cherie Buckner-Webb, Elfreda Higgins, Phyllis King and Elaine Smith) to vote no.
"The current policies are working," said Mark Browning, representing the Idaho State Board of Education. "If there is not a need to to fix something, why are we trying to put this in place?"
Marty Peterson, assistant to the president of the University of Idaho, talked about a 2007 incident when a sniper terrorized the community of Moscow.
"We had a U of I student grab his .45 caliber pistol and head toward the sniper," said Peterson. "The sniper proceeded to fire 31 rounds at the student, hitting him with three bullets. Fortunately he lived, but that student is now suing the university."
Under current law, Idaho universities decide their own firearm regulations. As a result, guns are currently banned with the exception of law enforcement and ROTC members.
Bruce Newcomb, former speaker of the Idaho House and current director of Government Relations for Boise State, testified against the measure.
"We used to have an axiom in this body: Do no harm," said Newcomb.
But Boise State economics professor Charlotte Twight said she wants to carry a weapon.
"I narrowly escaped being attacked two years ago," said Twight. "Does anyone doubt that females are most vulnerable on a campus that is unarmed?"
Republican Rep. Erik Simpson, the bill's sponsor, finished testimony with an emotional push.
"There are rapes and beatings on college campuses," said Simpson. "Gun-free zones don't work. There is a false sense of security by institutions with gun-free zones."