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Montana Senate reverses course, rejects bill allowing lawmakers to pack heat without permit

In a turnaround from a day earlier, the Montana Senate on Thursday voted down a measure that would allow legislators to carry guns in the Capitol and other public buildings without a concealed-weapon permit.

The Senate rejected the measure on a 24-26 vote – one day after giving it preliminary approval by a 27-23 count.

On Wednesday, four Republicans joined all 19 of the chamber’s Democrats in voting against Senate Bill 158.

Sen. Terry Gauthier, R-Helena

On Thursday, three additional Republican senators – Terry Gauthier of Helena, Mike Lang of Malta and Dan Salomon of Ronan – joined the “no” side, dooming the measure.

The bill from Sen. Steve Hinebauch, R-Wibaux, had passed what’s known as “second reading” on Wednesday, which is followed by final, binding vote – “third reading” – the next day. It failed on third reading, meaning it’s dead, unless senators vote within 24 hours to reconsider.

SB158 was a separate measure from a gun-rights bill that’s been signed into law, allowing citizens, including lawmakers, to carry guns in most public buildings if they have a concealed-weapon permit.

SB158 would have removed the requirement for a permit for state lawmakers.

During debate on the bill Wednesday, the measure faced questions from some Republicans, who asked whether every lawmaker would be trained or qualified enough to safely start shooting in a crowded building.