House Bill 415 as written is a disaster waiting to happen with implications to lessen school safety instead of enhancing it. It is a piece of legislation unsolicited by any school district or school related entity in Idaho, and it was written in a vacuum and pushed onto our state by the National Rifle Association. This bill is redundant and needs serious revision so that ALL Idahoan stakeholders can have input in to making this a piece of legislation that is in the true best interest of Idaho students. The biggest problem with HB 415 is that it violates a conservative principle of local control, prioritizes an individual’s Second Amendment right to carry over the statutory responsibilities of duly elected school boards, and prevents schools from creating common-sense policies that actually enhance security in our districts versus just throwing more guns indiscriminately at the problem. As a state, we can do better.
Currently, school districts and charter schools across the state under Idaho Statute 18-3302D(4)(g) already have the ability to establish policies within their own districts that allow and encourage employees to conceal carry. Currently, there are 15 school districts that have active policies allowing, encouraging, and supporting conceal carriers in their schools with several more districts looking to implement similar policies. Our district, Boundary County, is one of those school districts; we will be surveying our parents, staff, and constituents over the next several months with the goal to gather public input and schedule open forums so that our county constituents can ask questions, voice concerns, and have input into what our policies may look like if we adopt a concealed carrier policy. HB 415 doesn’t allow for any of this collaboration.
Instead, if enacted this legislative session, HB 415 has several glaring issues. For example, the definition of “school employee” is a broad term and includes any employee, volunteer, coach, or contractor of a district/school. Further, the employee does not have to request permission to conceal carry on school grounds; if they are an enhanced conceal card carrier, they have the inherent right to carry with no permission required from anyone in the school district. Conversely, no one in the district can tell them they can’t conceal carry, and that violates the local school board’s statutory responsibility of being charged with the safety and security of our students by not allowing us control over who in our buildings is allowed to carry. It also inhibits our ability to establish common sense policies around safe and secure storage of weapons, to require and provide additional training and resources, and to incorporate these individuals into our safety, security, and response plans.
School boards need to be the approval authority for anyone who desires to conceal carry on school grounds. Further, school districts need to be able to revoke their concealed carry status on school property if situations arise that justify it. We know our personnel and the people in our communities, and respectfully, the Idaho legislature does not. We know who in our district is on a plan of improvement and may have angst against the school district, or if our employees are going through a tough time or are having mental health issues. I also want to drive home this point – just because an individual has an enhanced concealed carry permit does not mean they are inherently the “good guy” – that is a naïve and a derelict assumption. It also doesn’t mean those individuals have the ongoing training it takes to actually be proficient at handling a weapon, be familiar with an active shooter response, know rules of engagement, or understand escalation of force and appropriate response. The 8-hour enhanced concealed carry training doesn’t address any of these areas as pertains to a school setting. Under current law, school boards can address all of these areas by creating policies that fit the needs of our communities and schools while at the same time providing training and resources through our local law enforcement channels for our concealed carriers. HB 415 allows for none of this and usurps school board’s authority and undermines their statutory responsibilities; School Boards are charged with the safety and security of schools – that responsibility is not shifted to our employees, coaches, volunteers, and certainly not contractors.
HB 415 was written as if more firearms thrown haphazardly at a school shooter scenario is the answer, and it is not…the answer is a targeted, controlled response that school boards can be instrumental in providing. Again, HB 415 eliminates local control and prioritizes an individual’s second amendment right over the safety and security responsibilities of school boards, and this is fraught with disaster and arguably puts our students – our children – more in harm’s way. We can do better than this with current laws already in place. Policy makers need to consider a more thoughtful approach where Idahoans and the appropriate stakeholders can create legislation that makes sense or stick with what we have; these efforts will TRULY underscore the state’s commitment to keeping our children safe.