BOISE — The Senate State Affairs Committee is weighing a bill to let school employees with enhanced permits carry concealed weapons on school grounds.
"The reality is that law enforcement response time is measured in minutes," sponsor Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, told the committee Wednesday. "In these situations, lives are snuffed out in seconds."
Lakey said he hopes the bill will help deter school shootings and give some protection to school staff and students. Currently, school boards in Idaho can vote to let employees carry weapons, but very few have. Lakey's bill would let any school employee with an enhanced concealed carry permit carry concealed. They would be required to notify the school principal and district superintendent, who could tell school trustees. No one else, including parents, would be told, except for law enforcement in situations where it is necessary. No employee could be required to carry a gun, and anyone who does would have to keep it concealed and on their person.
"I’m very passionate about our children and our schools and their safety," said Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon. "This isn’t about toting guns or puffing up. It’s about our children and safety."
Christensen introduced a bill to let school employees carry concealed last year that never got a hearing, and he continued to work on the issue this year. He said Lakey's bill would help made Idaho schools safer. He said similar laws passed in Utah in 2001 and South Dakota in 2013 and haven't led to any problems.
Representatives of the Idaho School Boards Association, Idaho Education Association and the pro-gun control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America testified against the bill. About a couple dozen Moms Demand Action members showed up to the hearing, wearing the group's signature red shirts. The bill hearing started after 9 a.m. — the committee started at 8 a.m. and the hearing before that on a resolution declaring May 5 a day of awareness for murdered and missing indigenous people had taken about an hour — and with the committee running out of time before they were due on the Senate floor, Chairwoman Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, gave each Moms Demand Action member who wished to talk a minute to speak.
Nicole Brown with Moms Demand, a 20-year Air Force veteran, said the bill doesn't contain safeguards such as requiring continued training for school employees who wish to carry.
"Please stop trying to make a hobby into a security service," she said. "If you want to be law enforcement, join law enforcement. If you want to go into the military, join the military."
Paul Stark, general counsel for the Idaho Education Association, raised several questions about possibly ambiguous language in the bill and with the nondisclosure section, which he said would make it impossible to inform school trustees without also amending the Idaho Public Records Act to create a new exemption. Also, he said he sees it as a violation of parents' rights for them not to know if their child's teacher has a gun in the classroom or not.
"Under this bill, the disclosure requirements are just far too tight," he said.
Supporters include the National Rifle Association. NRA lobbyist Brian Judy said you hear "dire warnings of doom and catastrophe" whenever gun rights are expanded, giving examples such as the permitless concealed carry bill Idaho passed in 2016 and a 2014 bill to let people with enhanced permits carry on college campuses.
"The dire consequences that have been predicted have never materialized," Judy said.
The committee will continue the hearing Friday, on which day it could vote on whether to send the bill to the full Senate.