Montana Paper Calls For Legal Challenge To New Campus Carry Law

One of the provisions of the Constitutional Carry law approved in Montana earlier this year extends the right to carry onto college campuses in the state, though gun owners will still need to provide proof of firearms training if asked to do so by police.

A number of states have campus carry laws on the books, including Utah, Colorado, Texas, and Kansas, so it’s not like Montana is re-inventing the wheel here. Still, gun control advocates like the editorial board of the Daily Chronicle in Bozeman view the state’s new law with alarm, and are calling for the campus carry provision to be challenged in court.

The framers of the 1972 Montana Constitution were quite clear. The Board of Regents shall “have full power, responsibility and authority to supervise, coordinate, manage and control the Montana university system,” according to the constitution.

There’s not much wiggle room there. And the courts should be asked to rule on this infringement of the regents’ authority. Why? Because it’s important — very important.

No one has demonstrated a need for students to carry guns on campus. And allowing them to do so is fraught with peril. The presence of guns invites accidents, an increased opportunity to commit suicide in a state with one of the highest suicide rates in the nation and a chance that an argument — particularly one fueled by alcohol — could end very badly.

A court challenge could indeed pose a problem for the new campus carry law, though the state’s Attorney General supported the measure as it was making its way through the state legislature.

The paper is on less solid ground, however, when it claims that no one has demonstrated a need to carry on campus. The last time I checked, keeping and bearing arms was a right, and not one that’s based on anyone demonstrating a particular need.

While the editors claim that the presence of guns will turn the campus into the Wild West, that hasn’t been the experience of any other state that’s adopted campus carry legislation. Not a single state has repealed the law after putting in place, because there hasn’t been an issue.

Montana will join 10 other states that allow guns on state campuses, but will be the only one allowing students as young as 18 to carry them. And that sends a very bad message about our campuses. Many out-of-state high school students and their families will have second thoughts about enrolling in a Montana school when guns are allowed in classrooms and dorm rooms. And the system relies on the higher tuition paid by those students to subsidize the cost of education for in-state students.

Montana State University accommodates students’ firearms used for hunting. They are stored in a locker until students request them to use for planned outings. That’s sufficient.

Sure, that’s “sufficient” if we’re talking hunting. That’s not what we’re talking about, however. The Daily Chronicle editors may not think that students or staff should be able to protect themselves on campus (as well as while they’re traveling to and from a university or college campus), but they can’t guarantee the safety of those who would choose to legally carry a gun for self-defense. Ultimately, their safety is their own responsibility, and while the paper may claim to have the interests of students in mind, the editors appear to be putting their own dislike for gun ownership ahead of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

 

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Apr 09, 2021 5:00 PM ET