House of Representative rejects campus carry bill

Montana House voted down Senate Bill 143 on March 31, which would have allowed for the concealed carry of firearms on Montana University System (MUS) campuses. The bill was defeated in a 49-51 vote.

MSU Chief of Police Robert Putzke said that he and his officers are pleased with the outcome of the House’s vote. “We were very concerned about guns on campus and especially in the residence halls in an uncontrolled manner creating new problems. We’re very happy [SB 143] didn’t pass,” he said.

Montana’s 41 House Democrats and 10 Republican House members voted against the bill after a heated debate. Austin Knudsen, Republican Speaker of the House from Culbertson supported the bill citing the shootings at Virginia Tech and Fort Hood, which occurred in gun-free zones.

Opponents of SB 143 cited the right of the Board of Regents to regulate the campuses in the MUS as they see fit. Democratic Rep. Nate McConnell from Missoula said there is no part of the Montana Constitution that allows the state to instruct the Board of Regents on rule setting.

Tracy Ellig, executive director of university communications, vocalized MUS’s gratitude to the lawmakers who voted against the bill. “The university system is grateful to all the legislators who listened to our arguments that the campuses [in the university system] are already very safe places that wouldn’t have been made more safe with guns,” he said.