More than 200 people against a bill that would allow permit holders to carry concealed weapons on Idaho's university campuses protested Thursday in the rain outside the Statehouse. The group was made up primarily of students and faculty of Boise State University and the College of Western Idaho.
Sharing space with them on the capitol steps were about 20 protesters supporting the guns-on-campus bill. Protesters in the two groups exchanged loud, angry words, but there was also friendly conversations among students and teachers on different sides of the issue.
Boise State English professor Bruce Ballenger stood next to a fellow faculty member with a sign reading “not in my class.” Ballenger says it's been a long time since he's seen an issue generate such strong feelings on campus.
“I think it’s long past due that we get out of our ivory tower and get down on the streets and begin to articulate some of our views about things that affect higher education in the state,” Ballenger says.
He says allowing guns on campus would make students and faculty less safe. But he doesn't think lawmakers will reject the measure despite the opposition of all the state’s university presidents and the Idaho's Chiefs of Police Association.
Boise State Student Nick Ferronato is one of the leaders of the counterprotest in support of the guns-on- campus bill. He says it’s unfair that a public university can violate what he sees as a basic right.
“It’s an inalienable human right -- self-defense – and that’s what we’re trying to show support for,” Ferronato says.
Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio