I do not usually get into politics on my blog, but a recent bill was killed in the senate that I had a particular interest in, and a bill that is related to criminal law in Idaho.
The Idaho House of Representatives has passed House Bill 222 by a 41-28 vote. That bill went to a vote in the Idaho Senate’s State Affair’s Committee yesterday, and the bill was killed. A friend of mine, Jonathan Sawmiller, gave live testimony before the Committee. Near the end of his testimony he was interrupted by the Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, from Idaho Falls.
Mr. Davis’ question was “Are the leaders of my church wrong in precluding guns on campus at BYU and BYU-Idaho?” Mr. Sawmiller attempted to answer this question with the obvious reply, the LDS church is a private institution, and are legally able to preclude weapons if they so choose. However, Mr. Davis interjected “From a safety point of view, are the leader’s of my church wrong?” Mr. Sawmiller attempted to get out of answering this question directly by conceding that it was a risk based decision that is the right of a private institution to make.
Mr. Davis’ son was killed by a concealed weapon permit holder at a BSU off-campus party. Apparently the shooter had obtained his concealed carry permit a month prior to the shooting. It is worth mentioning here that it is illegal to conceal carry anywhere at anytime while under the influence of alcohol. This concealed weapon permit holder was already breaking the law by carrying while intoxicated. I doubt a pesky permit requirement would have stopped him from carrying. Furthermore, the shooting took place off campus, where he was otherwise legally allowed to carry under the current law. There is nothing about the new proposed law that would have effected what happened that night to Mr. Davis’ son.
Mr. Davis knew exactly what he was doing by framing the question in the manner he did. 1/3 of Idaho’s population belongs to the LDS church, and the membership of the LDS church pay great deference and respect to the leadership of their church. So by framing the question as, “are the leaders of my church wrong?” He was setting up the question in a way that Mr. Sawmiller could not answer in a politically prudent way.
Fortunately I’m not a politician. In fact, I am a member of the same church that Mr. Davis is. I would remind Mr. Davis that our church has a policy of not taking sides in politics. I would remind Mr. Davis that our church supports separation of church and state. I believe it was unfair of Mr. Davis to frame the question in this way. His question was framed to muddy the waters of sincere and open debate.
Since I’m not a politician, I can answer the question. The leadership of the church is wrong, from a safety standpoint, in banning concealed carry on their college campuses. That is the entire point of bringing this bill to begin with. It is not safe for colleges to ban conceal carry, because the only people who are going to obey the ban are law abiding citizens, the exact people that we want carrying to begin with. When we have another Columbine or another Virgina Tech mass school shooting, we want law abiding citizens who are trained to use their weapons carrying those weapons. Even if it is a small chance that they can stop the shooter, we want them to take the chance.
Having said that, I agree with Mr. Sawmiller that for private institutions on private property, they are free to make that decision themselves. The State of Idaho should not interfere with private institutions in making those decisions. However, state owned universities do not have the authority to regulate firearms on campus. All we are asking the legislature to do is to let the universities know that. There is already a law on the books that strips all authority from any agency other than the legislature from passing laws or policies regarding firearms. The universities already lack the authority, they just need that to be made clear to them.
Craig Atkinson is the lead attorney at Atkinson Law Office,
Boise DUI and Criminal Attorneys. It is located at 1087 W River St #290, Boise, ID 83702. You can call him anytime at 208.571.0627.
Ask Craig to review your case.