Montana Becomes 18th Constitutional Carry State

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Just a few days after Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed Constitutional Carry legislation, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has followed suit, signing HB 102 into law on Thursday and making Montana the 18th state in the nation to recognize the right of legal gun owners to lawfully bear arms without a government permission slip.

“Our Second Amendment is very clear: The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” Gianforte said at a bill signing ceremony Thursday afternoon. “Every law-abiding Montanan should be able to defend themselves and their loved ones.”

The measure allows concealed firearm possession without a permit by default in most places in the state, with exceptions including secure law enforcement facilities, federal buildings, courtrooms, and K-12 schools. Property owners and tenants would have the ability to expressly prohibit firearm possession in private homes and businesses.

The right-to-carry bill also allows for the legal carrying of firearms on college campuses for those possessing a Montana carry license, though that provision of the law will not take effect until June 1st. The other provisions in the Constitutional Carry law took effect upon Gianforte’s signature, and the legislator who authored the bill says he’s glad to see the Second Amendment rights of residents have been expanded and secured.

Sponsor Rep. Seth Berglee, R-Joliet, said the bill honors a longstanding tradition of self-defense in Montana.

“The citizens of Montana have the ability to defend themselves, and I trust them with that responsibility,” Berglee said.

Attorney General Austin Knudsen, a Republican, also applauded the bill Thursday.

“No bill in the last 20 years has done more to protect our fundamental right to keep and bear arms,” Knudsen wrote in a statement.

According to the Montana Free Press, a potential lawsuit is looming over the section of the law dealing with campus carry because of a section in the state’s constitution giving control of the state’s university system to a Board of Regents. That board has opposed HB 102, claiming it will lead to violence and increased suicides on campuses across the state.

Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education Kevin McRae said Thursday that the Board of Regents will discuss the matter at its May meeting. He noted the bill had been amended to accommodate some of the concerns higher ed officials expressed about the initial version of the measure, adding the provisions that let campuses require basic safety training and restrict possession at sporting events. He also noted the bill had been changed so it takes effect in June, instead of immediately.

“[K]eeping our campuses safe places to teach, learn, live and grow is our highest priority,” McRae said in an email.

No state that’s adopted campus carry (or Constitutional Carry, for that matter) has repealed the measure because of unintended consequences or a rise in violence as a result of the carry law. In fact, there’s been no evidence that allowing those with concealed carry licenses to lawfully carry on a university campus has led to any increase in violence or suicides anywhere the law’s been put into effect.

Given the fact that concealed carry holders are more law-abiding than the general population, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that these folks are just as safe and responsible carrying on-campus as they are in their off-campus activities, but we’ll have to wait and see if the state’s Board of Regents will pursue a law seeking to keep them disarmed once they set foot on a college campus.

The signing of HB 102 is a huge step forward for Montanans, but it’s also a significant boost for the right to keep and bear arms for all Americans. Eighteen states have now passed Constitutional or permitless carry laws, while only eight states still maintain restrictive and draconian “may-issue” concealed carry laws that prevent the average citizen from being able to carry a firearm in self-defense.

With the Supreme Court set to consider whether or not to accept a challenge to New York’s carry laws in the coming weeks, the addition of Montana and Utah to the ranks of Constitutional Carry states serves to highlight the fact that there are still some states, including New York, where the right to bear arms is treated as a privilege instead. That may provide another push for the Court to accept the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association vs. Cortlett, along with the split in the various appellate courts on the issue.

Congratulations to those Montanans who’ve worked hard to see this measure become law, including all those involved in last year’s elections, which replaced an anti-gun governor with one who clearly recognizes the importance of protecting and securing our Second Amendment rights.

 

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