The Idaho House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved legislation allowing school employees and volunteers with an enhanced concealed weapons permit to carry a concealed firearm in schools.
After a debate of almost two hours, lawmakers voted 53-16 to advance House Bill 415, sponsored and introduced by Rep. Ted Hill (R-Eagle) in close cooperation with the National Rifle Association. The bill awaits a committee assignment in the Senate.
Despite the lopsided vote, the debate revealed a high level of discontent with the bill, even among those who ultimately voted in its favor.
“One thing became clear from that debate: thoughtful lawmakers were afraid to vote against this bill because of the overbearing influence of the National Rifle Association at the Idaho Statehouse,” said Chris Parri, political director for the Idaho Education Association. “With House Bill 415, the NRA’s reactionary political arm, based in Virginia, managed to drown out the voices of Idaho’s educators, responsible gun owners, and law enforcement officials who see how dangerous this bill is. But now we have a chance to stop this reckless bill in the Idaho Senate.”
In addition to IEA members, virtually every education stakeholder group of note, as well as law enforcement groups, oppose the bill. The Idaho School Boards Association, the Idaho School Administrators Association, the Idaho Association of School Resource Officers, the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association and the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association are against it.
Only five GOP lawmakers voted against the bill, despite many more expressing deep concerns about the legislation during the debate. Reps. Julie Yamamoto (R-Caldwell), Jack Nelsen (R-Jerome), Greg Lanting (R-Twin Falls), Lance Clow (R-Twin Falls) and Dori Healey (R-Boise) voted against the legislation along with all 11 Democrats in the House.
House Bill 415 side-steps a school district’s codified responsibility for and oversight of school safety bygranting school employees and volunteers the legal right to carry concealed weapons on public school campuses, as long as they have an enhanced concealed weapons permit. Despite an easy 11-2 vote in the House State Affairs Committee last week and the full House vote on Wednesday, the bill has drawn significant and vocal opposition.
The IEA board of directors took the extraordinary step of sending an open letter to members of the Idaho Senate this week encouraging them to reject the bill. And IEA members have sent more than 1,200 emails to lawmakers registering their alarm over the bill.
“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.”