Campus carry hits Montana’s state house. Will it pass?

Charles S. Johnson reports at the Missoulian:

Bill for concealed carry on Montana campuses sparks debate

HELENA – Some legislators are trying again to pass a bill to allow people to carry concealed guns on Montana university campuses, even through Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed a similar bill in 2013.

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday heard but took no immediate action on Senate Bill 143 by Sen. Cary Smith, R-Billings.

“It provides the opportunity for students that are enrolled in college in the state of Montana and faculty to have the guns on campus,” Smith said.

He said a number of other states are working on similar legislation in response to assaults on campus.

When the Senate endorsed the bill last month, the Associated Press quoted Smith saying in the debate: “People say you can’t have guns on campuses because it causes shootings. I would argue it prevents some of these tragedies.”

The bill would empower the Board of Regents to prohibit the firing of weapons on campus, unless it’s done in self-defense, and forbid their possession at events where campus authorities have authorized alcohol to be served. The bill contains certain other exceptions.

Those testifying for and against the bill were sharply divided over the issue.

“Government agencies in Montana are not given the power to suspend the Constitution,” Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association in Missoula, said in endorsing the bill. “Unfortunately, the Legislature has tolerated so far the university system suspending part of the Constitution.”

Attorney Lee Brunner of Butte said he’s a veteran who has been a competitive shooter. He teaches a course on the Montana Tech campus and has a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

“Having a firearm provides a sense of security to people like me,” Bruner said.