A bill to expand the right to carry in Montana has sailed through the state House and is now on its way to the state Senate, where prospects look good for the measure.
While the bill addresses many aspects of the state’s carry laws, the provision allowing concealed carry holders to lawfully possess a firearm on the grounds of public colleges or universities is definitely drawing the most attention from opponents of the measure. Rep. Seth Berglee, the bill’s sponsor, says that folks shouldn’t overlook the other aspects of the legislation.
“The first thing that it does is what I consider to be permitless carry so it allows you to concealed carry in most of the areas where you can currently open carry,” said Berglee. “So to me, Montana law is very prohibitive of concealed carry but very open on open carry. Concealed carry to me, coming from a strategic or tactical safety background, where negative public impact if you’re in a tourist type area, concealed carry makes a lot more sense. I think it’s a better and safer way to carry.”
Berglee further described areas where firearms could be carried.
“The second thing that it would do is allow permitted carry in a couple additional areas,” he said. “For instance, it allows carry in restaurants that serve alcohol or bars where you’re currently allowed to open carry. I made that a permitted area or as allowed in the bill you would be able to carry in the State Capitol with a permit and as well as other state owned property.”
As for the campus carry provision itself, Berglee says it makes sense.
“To carry on campus, the weapon has to be in a case or holster. It can’t be discharged on campus unless it’s for self defense purposes. You can’t keep it in a dorm room unless you have expressed written permission from somebody you might be living with. If it’s not on your person, it has to be locked and secured. You can’t carry in any area that serves alcohol for like a campus event.”
The bill had little trouble in the House, despite objections from officials with the University of Montana system. HB 102 cleared the chamber on a partisan-line vote of 61-33 (with a few lawmakers absent). The expansion to the state’s carry laws is also backed by both Gov. Greg Gianforte and Attorney General Austin Knudsen, and it should have little trouble in the state Senate as well.
Of course, if you’re a Montana gun owner you should still contact your state senator and urge them to support HB 102, as well as thanking your state representative if they voted in favor of the bill in the House. The bill may be likely to pass, but it’s always good to give your lawmakers positive encouragement to do the right thing.