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Idaho governor signs guns-on-campus bill, cites 'sworn responsibility'

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter signed a campus carry bill into law Wednesday.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Yesterday, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter defined what it means to be an elected official in such a way that many people might want him in the White House, as he signed into law a bill that makes it legal for people with enhanced state concealed carry permits to pack defensive firearms on public university and college campuses.

“As elected officials,” Otter said in a letter to the legislature that was published on-line by the Idaho Statesman, “we have a sworn responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution – not only when doing so is easy, convenient or without cost, but especially when it is not. This legislation challenges us to fulfill that charge.”

The new law takes effect July 1. Otter’s action should be considered a “learning experience” for the college heads who opposed it, as well as Democrat A.J. Balukoff, who is running to replace the Republican governor. According to yesterday’s Idaho Statesman, Balukoff “may attempt to draw a line between 2nd Amendment rights that he says he supports and guns on campus.”

Gem State gun owners may have a constitutional lesson for Balukoff, who professes that education is a top priority. One does not dissect a constitutionally-delineated civil right, picking which parts he supports and those he does not. A constitutional right is an all-or-nothing proposition, gun rights activists insist.

Otter has his critics on the bill. Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson was shut out of a Senate hearing on the bill, according to the Idaho Statesman, as were police chiefs from two other communities with a state college and/or university. Mothers of two campus shooting victims, one killed at Virginia Tech and the other at Northern Illinois University, reportedly appealed to the governor to veto the measure.

Both of those shootings occurred in “gun-free zones.” Gunmen Sueng Hui-Cho at Virginia Tech and Steven Phillip Kazmierczak at Northern Illinois violated campus gun prohibitions, not to mention laws against murder in both states.

No doubt Idaho’s newspapers and gun prohibitionists, while they are surely in the minority, will be watching campuses closely, waiting for an “I-told-you-so” incident to declare the new law a disaster. On the other hand, if a shooting spree, rape or robbery is prevented by a legally-armed student, staffer or visitor, their silence may be deafening.

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