By Cole Grant/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA - House Bill 280 would allow Montana lawmakers to carry handguns on state property, including in the Capitol during the Legislature.

Rep. Randy Brodehl, R-Kalispell, said he would support allowing anyone who qualifies for open and concealed carry to have guns on state property. But he says getting support for that would be unlikely.

“The first thing that we need to do is start with who is the most vulnerable,” Brodehl said. “And in the Capitol, I think legislators are.”

Brodehl also said as a legislator, he’s received death threats, and that he takes the risk in the job very seriously.

Don Jones of MEA-MFT, a labor union representing public employees, said they support the Second Amendment, but he thinks it doesn’t make sense for anyone to be armed for self protection in a public building like the Capitol, because, “that’s what the police are here for.”

Jones testified against the bill to the House Judiciary Committee Thursday, saying it could make the Capitol unwelcoming to visitors.

“We shouldn’t do anything to discourage and create some sort of fear with the rest of the public who want to come here and talk to you about issues that they know you might have disagreements with them,” Jones said.

According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, in 18 state Capitols, the public, legislators, and/or employees are allowed to carry firearms in one way or another.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.