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Despite what lawmakers may think to the contrary, there are firearms on Idaho’s college campuses today.

The observant and somewhat skeptical legislator may respond, that’s impossible. It’s against policy to have guns on Idaho’s university grounds.

True. But the assumption that our colleges are devoid of firearms assumes that the mere existence of a law means people will follow it.

Indeed, Idaho’s colleges and universities carefully regulate the use of drugs and alcohol, and those regulations are likewise routinely ignored.

Yes, there are firearms on our campuses, and some of those weapons are being carried by people who may intend harm. The prohibition against firearms merely serves as a strong deterrent for the law-abiding. For those who couldn’t care less about laws and rules and regulations, not so much.

Yet the Senate State Affairs Committee voted 6-3 Friday to defeat a bill that would allow students and others with concealed weapons permits to have weapons at universities and colleges in Idaho and to defend themselves consistent with the state and federal constitutions.

Lawmakers appeared to vote against the legislation out of abundance of caution. Playing the “what if” game, they voted down the bill out of concern that something bad may happen on our campuses because of a future act of a nefarious college kid with a concealed weapons permit.

Law enforcement officers (excluding the Fraternal Order of Police, which supported the legislation), argued against the proposal, projecting that a gun-carrying college student will use his or her firearm in an emotion-laden act of rage over a love gone bad, a low grade or a political disagreement. Only law enforcement, they argued, is qualified to offer protection to the public.

Sometimes I imagine what the law enforcement lobbyists might have said had they been around to offer testimony on the U.S. Constitution. They likely would have argued that the right of people to keep and bear arms goes too far in that it allows the unwashed masses to use weapons in their own self defense. It’s a good thing that’s not how our Founding Fathers viewed it.

Rep. Marv Hagedorn of Meridian very smartly observed that by designating our college campuses as “gun-free zones,” the bad guys know that they can be assured they’re the only ones packing when they visit Boise State University, Idaho State University, the University of Idaho or Lewis-Clark State College. Said Hagedorn, there’s a reason people in the general public don’t put a sign in front of their own houses proclaiming their homes to be “gun-free zones.” It serves as an invitation to evil-doers.

One of the most precious freedoms Americans have is the right to keep and bear arms. Members of the Senate had a chance last week to further promote those rights that are enshrined in the Constitution, and they chose not to act.

James Madison said, “Americans have the right and advantage of being armed — unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”

Unfortunately, some Idahoans still have a disadvantage — one that could easily be corrected by the Idaho Legislature.

- Wayne Hoffman is the executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. E-mail him at wayne@idahofreedom.net.

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