The Idaho House State Affairs Committee’s endorsement of legislation allowing virtually anyone employed by or volunteering for a school district to carry a concealed firearm in schools met a firestorm of criticism this week.
House Bill 415, sponsored and introduced by Rep. Ted Hill (R-Eagle) in close cooperation with the National Rifle Association, side-steps a school district’s codified responsibility for and oversight of school safety in order to “provide an armed force to protect children.” The proposed legislation grants school employees and volunteers to legally carry concealed weapons on public school campuses, as long as they have an enhanced concealed weapons permit.
The bill is opposed by virtually all education stakeholders of note, including Idaho Education Association members, school administrators and school boards. Despite overwhelming testimony in opposition to the bill in testimony in its first legislative hearing on Wednesday, the panel endorsed the bill in an 11-2 vote. The bill is expected to be considered by the full House of Representatives early next week. Law enforcement officials also oppose the bill according to one media report.
In the two days since the panel passed the legislation, IEA members have sent lawmakers more than 1,000 emails urging them to reject the bill in response to an IEA call to action.
“No one on school district property should be allowed to carry a gun, except properly trained school resource officers,” wrote Kelli Aiken, an IEA board member and school counselor in North Idaho’s Lakeland School District, in an emotional email to lawmakers that was published in IEA Reporter in full. “Increasing the number of people with guns in schools will not create more safety. It will decrease it.”
IEA Executive Director Paul Stark underlined the lack of support from education stakeholders and the absence of any provisions giving local elected officials or parents any oversight or input into who is allowed to carry the firearms into classrooms. He also pointed out that the same panel, just a week earlier, approved a similarly controversial bill giving state government more authority over policing library content.
“There has been some testimony in this session about not trusting librarians with a book, but this trusts librarians with a Glock,” Stark said.
Quinn Perry, deputy director for the Idaho School Boards Association, also testified against the legislation on behalf of her organization and the Idaho School Administrators Association. She called the bill “completely impractical” to implement and said the legislation leaves local elected school board members powerless to control who can carry a gun in schools.
She also pointed out that school districts that currently allow teachers to carry guns, like Mountain View School District in Grangeville, require active shooter training, Perry said.
“They do this groundwork to make sure that parents, staff, community members have the buy-in before they authorize their staff to carry,” she said.