Montana regents, AG’s office make case to judge on block of campus carry law


The Montana Board of Regents and the Attorney General’s Office faced off in court Monday, making their case to a district judge who will decide whether to continue blocking a policy signed into law in February to allow for firearms to be carried on college campuses — the law was set to go into effect June 1.

After the Montana Supreme Court denied original jurisdiction on a suit filed by the Board of Regents challenging the constitutionality of House Bill 102, the regents refiled in Lewis and Clark County District Court, where Judge Michael McMahon issued a temporary restraining order on implementing the policy. HB102 grants expanded ability to carry guns on college campuses.

The regents argued the law infringes on the board’s constitutional authority to manage college campuses in the state and should be blocked, according to a suit filed by the board against Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen.

By infringing on the board’s constitutional rights and conflicting with current campus policies that prohibit students and staff to carry guns on campus, Martha Sheehy, former regent and attorney for the board, said the board is suffering irreparable harm, which she said is cause enough for the restraining order to be extended.

“We have established that the Montana constitution vests the board with the full power and authority to manage, supervise, coordinate and control the Montana University System,” she said. “We have also established through the act itself, HB102, that the act strips [the Board of Regents] of that constitutional right with respect to policymaking in the area of the use of and access to firearms on the Montana University System campuses.”

David Dewhirst, solicitor general at the Attorney General’s Office, said the board’s concerns are speculative and conjectural and that HB102 is entitled to be considered constitutional until proven otherwise.

“I’m contending that HB 102 is a law generally protecting the health, safety and public welfare. And that’s something well within the Legislature’s police power that the Board of Regents is subject to,” he said.

No decision was made by McMahon Monday.