Republicans had a good night in Montana on Election Day, winning the governor’s race and adding to their legislative majorities. Now they’re looking to use those new majorities to expand the Second Amendment rights of residents, starting with the introduction of a bill to expand concealed carry across the state.
The latest measure would make the state safer by doing away with “gun free zones,” Rep. Barry Usher, a Republican from Billings, argued Wednesday during a hearing on the measure. Usher is chair of the judiciary committee.
“When you have an evil shooter, they will prey on places where they know there are no guns or guns are not allowed, because people that want to do bad things with guns don’t adhere to the law anyway,” Usher said. “If everybody knows college campuses are gun free zones, then that’s just an open target.”
Usher’s bill doesn’t just focus on college campuses, though that’s a big component of the legislation. It would also establish permitless concealed carry in most locations as well as adding to the places where concealed carry is allowed with a license, like the state Capitol building and banks.
The last time the Montana state House debated a campus carry bill back in 2015, the measure failed on a 49-51 vote, but this year advocates seem pretty confident about its prospects in the legislature.
Republican House Majority Leader Wylie Galt said he thinks the new bill has wide support from the Republican caucus and could be signed into law by new Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte if passed.
“It’s been a priority in past sessions as well, I just believe our chances of getting it signed are way greater than in previous sessions,” Galt said.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, a Republican elected in November, said the state’s Department of Justice supports the bill.
“Montana voters have spoken,” he said, referencing the overwhelming victories of Republicans in all statewide races. “This is a very clear mandate from the voters of Montana that they support exactly this kind of legislation.”
So far, the most vocal opposition has come from the state’s higher education system. Lobbyists for the state’s public universities claim that the ability to lawfully carry on campus would make the colleges less safe, but there’s virtually no evidence to back up their assertions. No state that’s adopted campus carry has seen any major issues, and why would they? Someone who’s not a threat while carrying off-campus doesn’t become a threat just because they set foot on university grounds. They’re the same person no matter their location, and concealed carry holders are far more law-abiding than the general population.
Newly elected governor Greg Gianforte has indicated his support for the bill to expand the right to carry, and the state legislature appears to have made it a priority as well. Montana gun owners should still contact their state representative and senator to urge them to support Usher’s bill, because the gun control groups are going to mobilize to try to defeat it, but if we use our voices to back the bill, we can win this legislative fight and help to secure the right to keep and bear arms in Big Sky country.