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Bill to arm teachers easily clears Idaho House

A sign outside of a public school crossing out an image of a gun.
Gene J. Puskar
Signs, like this one, would become illegal to post at Idaho schools if a bill allowing teachers to carry concealed guns without permission is enacted into law.

A bill loosening restrictions on school staff carrying a concealed gun on campus is heading to the Idaho Senate.

Currently, Idaho law allows teachers to carry a gun if authorized by local school boards.

This bill would only require a staffer to hold an enhanced concealed carry permit and notify district administrators – no permission necessary.

Local school districts would no longer be able to require stricter training or ongoing active shooter education like some currently do under the proposal.

Rep. Jack Nelsen (R-Jerome) pointed to the Dietrich School District’s policy as one example.

“It’s way more involved than this bill and my concern with this bill is it cuts those guys off at the knees,” Nelsen said.

More training would be wonderful, said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ted Hill (R-Eagle). But, he said, he views teachers as the last line of defense against school shooters and that they don’t need to be as proficient as law enforcement agents.

“There’s 20 weapons on this floor right now,” said Hill, referring to his fellow state representatives in the House chamber. “I don’t know who’s armed, I don’t know what kind of training they have. I don’t care. I trust them.”

Members of the public and state lawmakers alike are allowed to carry guns at the Idaho Capitol without any authorization.

Those with an enhanced concealed carry permit must undergo eight hours of classroom training and fire 98 rounds of ammunition with an instructor.

House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel said she’s concerned the relatively low barrier to entry could result in accidental school shootings by unqualified people.

“There are an awful lot of things that could go wrong in this situation such that it does not play out in the dream Bruce Willis scenario,” Rubel said.

That doesn’t give teachers enough credit, said Rep. Julie Yamamoto (R-Caldwell)

An educator for 32 years, Yamamoto said her district approached her about carrying when she was an administrator.

“They asked if I was capable, and they allowed me to carry. Because no one was going to get to any of my kids or my teachers.”

She said she appreciated the intention of the legislation, but she ultimately voted against the bill because of a lack of local control and parental choice – one of five Republicans to oppose it.

Groups representing school board members, school administrators and teachers alike have lobbied agains the measure.

The legislation still needs approval from state senators and Gov. Brad Little before it could become law.

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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