Saturday, March 02, 2024

EDITORIAL: Guns on campus bill a total misfire

| February 2, 2024 1:00 AM

It’s an election year cocktail, intoxicating on the surface but dangerous if it’s actually consumed.

What Second Amendment-loving, protect-our-children Idahoan could possibly find fault with House Bill 415, which would allow any “school employee” to carry on campus if they have an enhanced concealed carry permit? 

Without HB 415, its rookie Republican sponsor suggests, we’re more likely “to have a stack of 20 kids dead in a classroom because we didn’t do anything.”

After receiving a positive rating from the Idaho Freedom Foundation and support on a party-line vote from the House State Affairs Committee last week, the bill received House approval Thursday on a 53-16-1 vote.

In an opinion piece this week, Boundary County school board member Teresa Rae summarized well what’s wrong with HB 415.

“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,” she wrote.

Rae noted that Idaho already allows — and in fact, encourages — school district employees to concealed carry (Idaho Statute 18-3302D(4)(g) ). At least 15 districts do so now and more are considering it, she wrote.

One of the state’s most qualified opinions comes from Sgt. Neil Uhrig of Post Falls. Uhrig is an award-winning detective with the Post Falls Police Department who also serves as chairman of the Post Falls School Board. 

In a Press article Tuesday, Uhrig called the bill as it’s currently worded “reactionary.”

“It sounds great for conservative Idaho,” he said. “We want to protect our students, but we need to do it in a thorough way, and they just didn’t do it with this bill.”

Usurping local control is one of Uhrig’s primary concerns as he noted that school districts are different. Post Falls, for example, can respond quickly to any school emergency, whereas law enforcement response in a more remote area like Harrison could take much longer.

Some of the opposition to HB 415 revolves around the fact that possessing an enhanced concealed carry permit does not ensure the individual is prepared to intervene in an active shooter situation. It's not far-fetched to imagine a distraught "school employee" being the potential problem, let alone the savior.

Appropriate training can’t be covered in an eight-hour course. A far better answer is deploying highly trained school resource officers, overseen by local administrators funded by independent school boards.

Despite calls from many quarters statewide for the bill's supporters to address some of its fatal flaws before putting it to a floor vote, the House approved HB 415 anyway. That sets the stage for the Senate or possibly the governor to clean up the House's mess.

Ladies and gentlemen, this bill is election bait. Don’t bite.