By IAN THOMPSON/Montana State News
A bill that would stop the state Board of Regents from barring students from carrying firearms on campus was narrowly passed by the state Senate Thursday on a 25-24 vote.
Opinions on Senate Bill 143 are sharply divided.
“It should be up to the university to decide but, personally, I think it would turn into trouble in the dorms if people were carrying firearms,” said Montana State University graduate Dan Hurst. “I think it should be treated just like any business.”
Current Montana State student Alex Reynes said, “I’m for it. People who think of carrying out a school shooting may think twice.”
Firearms would be allowed in individual dorm rooms on the condition that both roommates approve. Other conditions exist as well, such as requiring guns to be locked with specialized devices and a continued ban on firearms possession for students who have been reprimanded by the university. Events involving alcohol will continue to enforce a ban on guns as well.
Advocates for the bill claim that the restriction of guns on campuses takes away citizens’ Second Amendment right to bear arms. Some even say that firearm restricted areas are a hazard to safety.
State Sen. Cary Smith, R-Billings, a proponent of Senate Bill 143, said with some exceptions, the measure would exclude restrictions on guns on state university property. “People say you can’t have guns on campus because it causes shootings,” Smith said in a statement. “I would argue it prevents some of these tragedies.”
State Sen. Mary McNally, D-Billings, and a faculty member at Montana State University Billings, takes a different position, especially in regards to the safety of women on college campuses across the state. “I find campuses to be quite safe,” she said in a statement. “I also think women know how to take care of themselves.”
A similar bill was passed through the Montana Senate in 2012 but was vetoed by Gov. Steve Bullock, as he mentioned that guns and college campuses aren’t supposed to mix.
– Edited by William Neville