Idaho police leaders struggle to commit to guns on campus bill

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by Andrea Lutz

KREM.com

Posted on February 19, 2014 at 8:40 AM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 19 at 9:31 AM

BOISE -- Idaho lawmakers are leaning toward a bill that would allow students, faculty and others to carry a gun with them onto college campuses.

The Idaho senate voted 25-10 to allow the bill to go to the house after a Tuesday debate.

However, despite the bill's apparently-widespread political support, some local law enforcement leaders are opposed to it, while many haven't formally pledged support.

For example, Boise Chief of Police Mike Masterson openly opposes the bill.

Masterson was among those who weren't allowed to speak against the measure at February 12 hearing at the Idaho Statehouse. Lawmakers told him time had run out and the hearing would end.

Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue says that's wrong.

"These are the people that are going to be responding first hand, and to me the democratic process was left out," Donahue said.

The Idaho Sheriff's Association has taken a "no position" on the bill and so has the Canyon County chapter of the Idaho State Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), although the Idaho State FOP sent out a statement last week expressing support for Senate Bill 1254.

Brad Childers is the Canyon County FOP chapter president. He says all law enforcement officers need to be on the same page to send a clear message about concerns regarding the bill to lawmakers and the public.

"By no means are we saying we're against the second amendment -- saying people shouldn’t have weapons to protect themselves," explained Childers. "I think there's just some certain concerns here that need to be addressed, and if we can get those hammered out I think everyone would be a lot more comfortable with this," he said.

Idaho Senator Michelle Stennett, of District 26, opposed the bill, arguing it will burden schools with additional security costs and could escalate arguments.

That's another worry coming from some police officers about the bill.

Childers said the response to an emergency like a school shooting has changed over the last 10 years for police. While officers used to stand back and wait for back up to arrive to the scene, but that is just not the case anymore.

"Law enforcement would hesitate and wait for backup to arrive," he said. "We want to make sure we are aggressing the bad guy, not a citizen that is assisting with that."

The Meridian Police Department is also choosing not to take a side on the issue. Deputy Chief Tracy Basterrechea told KTVB Tuesday that they have their own questions about enforcement of the proposed bill.

He said police are asking what happens when a college and high school are in the same campus and that is the case for Idaho State University and Renaissance Charter High School, which share the same building.

"It just clouds the issue, so we would like a really good definition of what is going to appear in those situations in particular for us as a agency," said Basterrechea.

In debate Tuesday, bill sponsor Senator Curt McKenzie said he's addressed concerns about lack of training and the mixing of guns with alcohol that sank a similar bill that failed in the Senate in 2011.

Retired law enforcement officers and those with Idaho's so-called "enhanced concealed carry license" that requires training could pack weapons.

The Presidents of Idaho's eight public universities and colleges opposed the bill.

 

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