HELENA – A bill allowing concealed firearms without a permit across the state, including on college campuses, is now working its way through the Montana Senate after passing the House of Representatives on party lines last week.
Rep. Seth Berglee, R-Joliet, is the sponsor of House Bill 102 and championed it at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday as a safety measure.
“Anywhere a criminal has the ability to be armed,” Berglee said, “I think a law abiding citizen should have the right to be armed.”
Some opponents to the bill raised concerns about increases in suicides and accidental shootings on college campuses.
Dr. Claire Oakley, director of health promotion at RiverStone Health, also questioned whether students and faculty could stop a shooter.
“An armed college student or university professor cannot be expected to transform into a specially trained tactical police officer,” Oakley said
Other opponents asked for extra protections to be included. Cary Hegreberg spoke on behalf of the Montana Bankers Association. He asked the committee to consider an amendment that would add punishments for people who bring concealed firearms onto private property, disregarding posted signs asking them not to.
Berglee said he wouldn’t be opposed to such an amendment.
The committee is expected to vote on the bill Thursday. If it passes out of committee, it will have to pass the full Senate before heading to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s desk.
James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.