Supporters say Senate Bill 1384 would create a first line of defense to make schools safer.
Opponents say the bill would increase the risk of a tragedy.
The Senate State Affairs Committee could weigh in Friday.
Senators took no action Wednesday on SB 1384, which would allow school employees with enhanced concealed weapons permits to carry firearms in school. The committee hearing will continue Friday, and a vote could follow.
“It’s simply not right to force our school employees to act as human shields,” said Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, SB 1384’s sponsor.
Lakey’s bill would do several things.
- School employees with a concealed weapons permit would be allowed to carry a gun — but they would have to notify their principal and superintendent, who may in turn pass on notification to law enforcement.
- Employees would be required to maintain “immediate control” over their firearm.
- Employees carrying concealed weapons would be shielded from “any disciplinary action, retaliation, or adverse work conditions,” provided they follow state firearms laws.
- School employees would not be required to carry a gun.
- Officials could no longer post signs declaring a school a “gun-free zone.” “That’s simply an invitation to create a target,” Lakey said.
Testimony was sharply divided.
“When seconds count, police are invariably minutes away,” said Brian Judy, state director of the National Rifle Association, which supports SB 1384.
“This isn’t about toting guns or puffing up,” said Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon, one of the bill’s House co-sponsors. “It’s about our children, and their safety.”
“We believe those decisions are best kept at the local level,” said Karen Echeverria, executive director of the Idaho School Boards Association. Echeverria argued for maintaining the status quo — which allows local trustees to decide whether to allow their employees to carry concealed weapons, and integrate their concealed carry decision into a school safety policy.
Idaho Education Association counsel Paul Stark also urged the committee to kill SB 1384. The best way to keep schools safe is to invest in hiring school resource officers. Failing that, he said, policy decisions should be left with local officials.
Senate State Affairs’ hearing room was packed Wednesday — with a crowd reflecting the emotional debate surrounding the issue. Second Amendment activists and gun-control advocates filled the room.
But citizen activists had little time to voice their views.
About a dozen members of Moms Demand Action, a gun-control group, were allowed to speak, but each were given only a minute to speak.
Taryn Koch, a former middle school teacher from Boise, said arming schools would only increase the risk of “unintended consequences.” Keri Steneck, a veteran and gun owner, said school employees would not be adequately trained to protect students and staff.
But Eric Parker of The Real 3%ers Idaho, a Second Amendment-rights group, urged the committee to pass SB 1384. Parker quoted from several news reports on the 2018 Parkland, Fla., mass school shooting, which indicated that an SRO did not immediately act to stop the attack.
Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, said she wants the committee to hear from other bill supporters and law enforcement groups before voting on SB 1384.