Recently, Idaho’s Governor Otter signed a bill allowing guns on college campuses, but faculty at the University of Idaho and Boise State University are not taking such a violation of their right to a safe working environment lying down. While the bill allows colleges and universities the ability to ban open carry, it does nothing to address a student shoving a handgun in his or her waistband, keeping it hidden until the stresses of exams become too much — and opening fire in the middle of Biology class.
Feeling at the mercy of legislators who are far removed from the realities of gun violence, some faculty members are researching how the law may be circumvented.
“I don’t know that there’s much we can do about this right now, but we can still speak out against it,” Dr. Anthony Marker, Vice President of BSU’s faculty senate told IdahoReporter. Marker says that while faculty remains adamantly opposed to the state government placing them at risk, it may take a statewide campaign to eliminate the threat to their safety. “There has been some discussion that a statewide ballot referendum might be necessary for us to get rid of this law,” he said. “Personally I’m not sure how viable that is right now, but it is certainly a point of discussion.”
In response to this irresponsible law, both BSU and Idaho State University have begun training and arming their previously unarmed campus security guards. BSU is even planning to double its number of campus security and is adding $1 million to its security budget. The school will also be erecting signs across campus to warn students that some among them may be carrying concealed weapons.
“I regret the circumstances that have made this new spending necessary,” Marker explained, “but I certainly understand why the spending is necessary and why we need to arm peace officers.”
He says he does not oppose students protecting themselves, but is concerned about what may happen when what previously would have been an open exchange of ideas turns deadly. “What I don’t like is creating an environment where the Second Amendment to the Constitution trumps the First Amendment,” he said. “An academic environment is supposed to be a place of open dialog, free expression and the free exchange of ideas, and sometimes that entails serious disagreements. It would be naive to assume that we don’t already have some concealed weapons on our campus, but what we’ve done with this new law is create an environment where, if you speak your mind and somebody doesn’t like what you’re saying, you could face opposition from a person who brandishes a weapon that they have legally concealed. I’m concerned that this could have a chilling impact on free speech.”
At the University of Idaho, Dr. Nicholas Grier has distributed a legal opinion by attorney Benjamin Onosko to faculty that explains how the university may just choose to not enforce the dangerous law, or challenge it in court.
“The University of Idaho holds a special place in Idaho law as compared to every other university in the state,” wrote Onosko. The university, he explains, was founded through the state constitution while other public colleges and universities were established through the state legislature. “By choosing to include the University of Idaho in its constitution, Idaho gave the university inherent powers that most other universities do not enjoy,” he wrote. He added that, “while I have not had time to conduct a full investigation of relevant case law from surrounding jurisdictions, I believe that the University of Idaho has a strong argument that this new law is unconstitutional as applied to it, and that it cannot be enforced against the University of Idaho.”
While these feelings are not shared unanimously among faculty, it certainly reveals a number of options if the school decides that student safety trumps the rights of gun fetishists and ammosexuals to keep their piece within fondling distance at all times.
In Ohio, the opposite is occurring. Ohio State University has responsibly banned all guns on campus and at school events “even if otherwise permitted by state law,” prompting irresponsible anti-safety groups to sue the school for students’ right to keep guns in their vehicles–just a short walk away from a professor who gave an unstable individual a grade he or she feels is undeserved.
The presence of guns on campus is not a minor issue. Since Sandy Hook, there have been more than 70 school shootings, many of them on college campuses.