Let’s listen to local leaders and law enforcement on guns in school

Rep. Lauren Necochea, D-Boise
Reader Contributor

All Idahoans should agree: The safety of our children is paramount. But how we decide to protect them may differ from community to community. When it comes to guns in schools, current Idaho law allows locally elected school boards to set the policies they deem appropriate. Some districts keep guns out of schools unless they are in the hands of law enforcement. Others have policies providing oversight. 

Unfortunately, House Bill 415 is speeding through the Legislature and would undo local decision making, local training requirements and collaboration with local law enforcement by overriding school management of firearms in schools. 

Rep. Lauren Necochea. File photo.

Today, school districts can require ongoing active shooter drills in which employees test their ability to quickly distinguish between kids and assailants, or mandate participation in meetings with local law enforcement to develop safety and incident response plans. School leaders can also use criteria to revoke privileges for staff who are not well suited to the responsibility of carrying a firearm around children. 

In contrast, HB 415 circumvents local control and gives blanket permission to employees and volunteers who have taken a one-time concealed carry course and fired 98 rounds. Schools must allow them to carry firearms regardless of shooting skill, temperament, mental state, visual acuity, length of time since they took a course or other factors. 

A major alarm bell should be that law enforcement does not support this approach. The Idaho Association of School Resource Officers and Idaho Sheriffs’ Association both oppose HB 415. It’s no wonder, since experts have maintained that it is harder for police to respond to active shooters when unknown, untrained people are also engaging. 

Opening the door to an untrackable number of firearms means new liability for schools. The Idaho State University professor who shot himself in the foot during class and the Utah teacher who accidentally shot herself in a school bathroom are two recent examples of the risks. At least one Idaho school district has already been notified that its insurance company will drop it if this bill is enacted. We can only imagine that costs will rise for insurance companies that continue to provide coverage. 

Finally, this bill subverts the rights of teachers and parents who have come out in full force against this legislation. Parents won’t be able to ask whether their child’s teacher is armed, let alone demand more rigorous training requirements. One hundred Idahoans came out in

opposition during the committee hearing. Only five individuals supported the bill, including the out-of-state lobbyist who brought the legislation. 

Homegrown Idaho solutions and evidence-based safety measures are better than a one-size-fits-all approach from special interests. As this bill moves across the rotunda, I hope the Senate will see the wisdom in rejecting it.

Rep. Lauren Necochea is the House assistant Democratic leader, representing District 19 in Boise on the Environment, Energy and Technology; Resources and Conservation; Revenue and Taxation; and Ways and Means committees.

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