Idaho House voted Wednesday to approve a bill that would require schools to allow employees to carry guns if they have an enhanced concealed carry license.
BOISE, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.
The Idaho House of Representatives voted Wednesday to approve a bill that would require schools to allow employees to carry guns if they have an enhanced concealed carry license.
Members voted 53-16 with one absent to send HB 415 to the Senate following lengthy debate.
Rep. Ted Hill, R-Eagle, said schools are “soft targets” for shootings because many employees there are unarmed. He said the bill would allow schools to close the gap between when a shooting starts and when law enforcement arrives.
“We just have to give these people the opportunity to defend themselves,” Hill said.
Under the bill, any school employee or volunteer who has an enhanced concealed carry license must notify their principal and superintendent that they will carry a concealed gun on school grounds. School boards would not be required to be notified, and administrators would not be able to deny permission to anyone who met the requirements to carry under the bill.
A number of lawmakers asked Hill about current policies some Idaho school districts have adopted to allow employees to conceal carry, but with more stringent requirements than the legislation. Under the bill, those districts would no longer be able to require the stricter training, but could recommend it, Hill said.
Many of those who expressed concern about the bill said the requirements for an enhanced license may be inadequate.
To obtain an enhanced license, Idahoans must take an eight-hour course that includes instruction on state laws related to firearms, “basic concepts” of responsible use of handguns, self-defense principles, and live fire training with at least 98 rounds, according to Idaho code.
Rep. Mark Sauter, R-Sandpoint, thought more training should be required under the legislation.
“This begs for continuous and consistent and some pretty detailed training and that’s what I was really looking for and I’m not seeing that,” Sauter said.
Sauter voted yes on the bill.
Rep. Rick Cheatum, R-Pocatello, also said he thought threat assessment training should be included, especially because in cases when the shooter is a student, it might be a hard decision to either shoot or try to de-escalate first. He highlighted the 2021 shooting at Rigby Middle School in which an eighth-grade teacher disarmed the 12-year-old shooter.
“I’m going to support this bill,” Cheatum said. “I feel like I have to, because I believe in the philosophy of what the representative is trying to do here. But I think we need more. We need to come back and do more.”
Hill said he didn’t anticipate teachers or other staff would be expected to run out to meet the shooter, but it would be for more extreme situations.
“They’re not going to be law enforcement, they’re just there for a final stand,” Hill said.
House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, argued that these decisions should be left to local school districts. She noted that she wasn’t aware of many local groups that were in favor of the bill.
The Idaho teachers union, the school boards association and association for school resource officers have expressed opposition to the bill. During the public committee hearing on the bill, more than 100 individuals signed up to testify in opposition to the bill and five signed up in favor. The National Rifle Association was in favor, and a representative from the NRA in Idaho answered a number committee members’ questions about the legislation. Some committee members during the meeting received hundreds of emails in favor, almost all of which were identical to each other, public records show.
Rubel said there are many schools and parents who don’t want this, and this bill would force them to allow it, which she argued could have serious consequences.
“I feel like there’s this ‘Die Hard’ fantasy out there, where we all want to be Bruce Willis and be the good guy with the gun who whips it out and takes out the bad guy with the gun,” Rubel said, “and that’s a really appealing fantasy. But that is really not how it plays out most of the time.”
Rep. Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston, said that many of the same concerns were expressed when the Legislature passed a law allowing concealed guns on college campuses, and those have not come to fruition.
“This is a good bill that will be a deterrent for teachers, give them some power to shoot back just in case something crazy goes on, and this is a crazy world,” Kingsley said.
Rep. Greg Lanting, R-Twin Falls, said his school district was told it would lose its insurance coverage if the law were to pass. He said he wanted to see school districts make their own decisions, such as his district which opted to place security guards at elementary schools and staff all its secondary schools with school resource officers.
All of the Democrats along with Reps. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls; Dori Healey, R-Boise; Jack Nelsen, R-Jerome; Julie Yamamoto, R-Caldwell; and Lanting voted against the bill.
HB 415 now heads to the Senate.
This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.
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