On the final day of the 2013 Montana Legislative session, both houses passed a bill allowing students, professors, staff and everyone else to carry guns on Montana’s public college and university campuses.
House Bill 240, sponsored by Rep. Cary Smith, R-Billings, passed the House of Representatives with a 61-39 vote and the Senate with a 28-22 vote Wednesday morning.
Under current law, the Board of Regents, which oversees all Montana University System schools, decides whether to allow guns on campuses. If HB 240 becomes law, BOR would no longer have that authority.
Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, said banning weapons at colleges and universities violated the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“We think it’s time that campus administrators got drug kicking and screaming into the new century,” Marbut said.
“They can no longer get away with telling students and (others) they have to move to the back of the bus. They can no longer tell people willy-nilly that when you’re on our plantation, we can take your constitutional rights away.”
The bill includes some regulations to when and where guns can be carried. Weapons must be holstered if they are carried outside of a dorm room or other residence. Roommates must give permission for a gun-owner to keep a weapon in their dorm or apartment. Also, guns would not be allowed at campus events where alcohol is permitted.
Opponents of the bill are counting on Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock to veto it.
Sen. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, said he voted against HB 240 for two reasons.
Barrett said the universities, just like any other property owner or private home owner, have the right to keep guns off their property. He also said more guns make a campus less safe.
“I don’t accept the argument that people would be safer if they could arm themselves and defend themselves,” Barrett said. “I think you have to balance that against the probability that if there are a lot of guns around, one of them will get misused.”
This isn’t the only bill this session aimed at deregulating guns in Montana, Barrett added.
Along with HB 240, another gun bill will soon be on Bullock’s desk. HB 205, sponsored by Rep. Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel, would allow hunters to use silencers and devices to reduce muzzle flash. The Legislature passed that bill and it will now be up to Bullock to veto it, sign it or let it become law without his signature.
It’s not clear which Bullock will do; so far this session the governor has vetoed one gun bill and signed another into law. Bullock’s office did not respond to questions about his plans for the bill in time for this story.
HB 446, sponsored by Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer, R-Superior, classifies shooting a gun as an act that does not disturb the peace, and is no longer disorderly conduct. The bill became law with Bullock’s signature.
Kerns introduced two other pro-gun bills this session.
One would have removed the need for a concealed weapons permit, but Bullock vetoed it.
Another bill sought to allow concealed carry of weapons in government buildings, banks and places that serve alcohol. That bill never passed the House.
If HB 240 passes the governor’s desk, it will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.