Bill would allow guns on school grounds

By ALYSSA BURZYNSKI/ Montana State News

State lawmakers are considering a measure that would allow public school students to keep guns in locked cars on school grounds while attending school without fear of suspension or expulsion.

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Rep. Jerry O’Neil, R-Columbia Falls, and sponsor of House Bill 384, cited an 2010 incident that resulted in a two-week suspension of a 16-year-old Columbia Falls student.

The cheerleader disclosed to school officials before a random drug search, that she had a hunting rifle in the trunk of her car; however, they complied with the federal Gun-Free Schools Act by suspending her from school.

If house bill 384 were to pass, “its structure would increase students’ ability to hunt prior to and after attending school,” said O’Neil.

The bill faces opposition from the Montana School Boards Association. O’Neil claims the bill will comply with the federal Gun-Free Schools Act. Current law stipulates one-year expulsion for students possessing a gun; however, school boards are authorized to make exceptions to this rule.

The Montana School Boards Association’s Debra Silk said Montana schools have been doing a good job handling this type of incident. She added that there has not been a student expelled for an entire year.

The bill “would also increase our schools’ abilities to familiarize students with the proper manner and etiquette for handling firearms through such programs as 4-H Shooting Sports and National Junior ROTC Air Rifle programs,” O’Neil said.

The bill would extend to the state’s University System. According to Montana State University policy, “explosives are not permitted in the residence halls.” There is also a provision stating, “ammunition cannot be stored in the residence halls,” but the bill does not suggest an alternative storage place. The handbook states that a “violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action which could result in suspension from the University.”

No action has been taken on the bill.

– Edited by Codie Wyers


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