A bill that would expand where Montanans can lawfully carry a concealed firearm passed out of the state Senate on Wednesday and is headed back to the House for a concurrence vote on a pair of amendments before heading to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s desk.
Under HB 102, banks, bars, and restaurants that serve alcohol would be be open to concealed carry under the state’s permitless carry law, which recognizes the right to bear arms by all legal gun owners, regardless of whether they have a concealed carry permit.
The bill also allows concealed carry with a carry license in government offices and in most locations on college campuses, and represents a major expansion of the state’s current carry laws.
While the bill has seen mostly smooth sailing in the legislature this year, it does have its opponents.
Sen. Jen Gross, a Billings Democrat who works as a bartender and casino attendant, said she doesn’t think guns and alcohol mix safely in a late-night bar setting.
“It’s true that the bill does allow for private property owners and small businesses to prohibit firearms on their premises, but the bill allows for no mechanism for a small business owner, a bar manager, or an employee to determine if someone is concealed carrying on their private property,” Gross said.
With all due respect to the senator, this is a silly objection. What would Gross suggest? Mandatory patdowns as patrons enter a business? Actually, if business owners wanted to do that, or to set up magnetometers at the entrance to their establishments there’s nothing stopping them from doing so.
Even under current Montana law there’s no sure way for a business owner or employee to determine if someone is carrying concealed on their private property unless they’re taking drastic steps like setting up metal detectors or stopping and frisking customers as they walk through the door.
Gross’s argument simply doesn’t make a lot of sense, which is probably why it didn’t persuade any of her fellow state senators to change their votes. HB 102 passed the Senate on a mostly party line vote, which in Montana means the bill received close to a 2/3rds majority.
No matter how controversial Democrats may claim this bill is, the fact remains that Montanans solidly rejected the anti-gun mindset plaguing the party last November; replacing a Democrat governor with a Republican and adding to the GOP majorities in both the state House and Senate. A majority of voters of Montana don’t seem to consider HB 102 dangerous or unusual, but a needed recognition of their right to keep and bear arms for their own defense and defense of others.