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MT University System holds hearing on concealed carry on campuses


Big Sky Connection

Helena, MT – The Montana Board of Regents, at an online session today, will hear from people on a new law that allows concealed carry of firearms on college campuses. Comments from Grace Benasutti (ben-uh-SOOT-ee), legislative organizer, Forward Montana; and Amanda Curtis, president, Montana Federation of State Employees.

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A law allowing concealed carry of firearms on Montana colleges and universities is set to go into effect on June 1. (jonbilous/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

May 12, 2021

HELENA, Mont. -- Montanans have a chance to weigh in on firearms on college campuses at a listening session today.

Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a measure in February expanding concealed carry in most public places across the state, including on college campuses.

The Montana Board of Regents will decide this month how to implement the new law, or whether it will challenge it in court.

Grace Benasutti, legislative organizer for Forward Montana, said only police officers, security guards and private security currently are allowed to carry firearms on campuses, but the law would overrule the Board's policy.

"It weakens the Board of Regents' constitutional authority to make their own policies for the university system, and it also sets a really dangerous precedent for power grabs by the Legislature in the future," Benasutti contended.

At House Bill 102's signing, Gianforte said the measure will help Montanans better protect themselves. The Board of Regents online session begins at 3:00 p.m. today. Board members have until June 1 to decide how or if they will implement the new law.

Benasutti argued firearms on campus are dangerous because of Montana's high suicide rate, the third highest in the nation and two-and-a-half times higher than the national average.

She stated the danger is greater on college campuses where stressors and isolation are high.

"It's no secret that this generation experiences enormous gun violence as-is," Benasutti emphasized. "And the perpetuation of this by allowing firearms onto campuses is dangerous and also unfair to people that are just trying to attend school."

Amanda Curtis, president of the Montana Federation of Public Employees, said several bills passed this session infringe on the constitutional authority of the Board of Regents. But she believes House Bill 102 stands alone because of a line item she claims amounts to bribing the Board not to take the measure to court.

"The Legislature appropriated $1 million for the implementation of House Bill 102 on college campuses, but only if the Regents don't litigate the bill," Curtis pointed out.

The Board will hold another meeting starting on May 26.


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