- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Gun owners are a step closer to being able to pack concealed weapons on Idaho college campuses, a move Second Amendment advocates say will boost personal safety and allow people to exercise their constitutional rights.

The Senate State Affairs Committee voted 7-2 in to move it forward Wednesday, over objections from leaders of Idaho’s colleges and universities. It now goes to a full Senate vote.

The party-line vote with Republicans in favor advances a measure that allows retired law enforcement and enhanced concealed-carry permit holders to bring firearms to class. Guns would still be banned from dorms and other campus housing, as well as concert halls and stadiums.

States that currently allow campus-carry are Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Wisconsin and Utah. Most, including Idaho, leave it up to schools to decide.

Boise State University psychology professor Kimberly McAdams was among those who back changing that, describing her terror when a former student threatened to kill her last month. McAdams said bringing a gun to class would give her a “fighting chance” to save her own life - and protect her students in a crisis.

“I shudder to think what would happen in the worst-case scenario,” she said.

Sen. Elliot Werk, one of two Democrats against the bill, questioned whether having armed students in class could exacerbate conflicts.

“If you have instructors teaching controversial subjects, we have students who might take issue with other students during controversial discussions,” he said. “I really feel strongly that the endgame is to make our campuses completely weaponized.”

National Rifle Association lobbyist Dakota Moore countered that almost all concealed-carry holders have found themselves in personal conflicts or held a stressful job and never drew a weapon in the heat of the moment.

“This type of intimidation or this type of pressure isn’t unique to college or university campuses as many people imply,” Moore said. “These issues don’t change between college and graduation.”

A similar bill failed in 2011 in the same committee, after passing the House. But with Republicans leaders like President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, and Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, throwing their weight behind the change, it will likely clear the Senate and the House.

Bruce Newcomb, Boise State’s lobbyist at the Capitol and former Republican House speaker, questioned whether the enhanced-carry permit - it requires an eight-hour class and 98 rounds fired during live training - was enough to prepare someone to act in a high-stress situation.

“When there is a gun in the hand of a person who only gets training one day in five years, well, I think that’s irresponsible,” Newcomb said.

Newcomb said he even fears firearms might play a new, dangerous role in disputes over heated classroom discussions or even grades. Educators, he said, are worried.

“I had one professor say to me, ‘If this bill passes, all my students are going to get A’s,’ ” Newcomb said.

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