A bill to allow concealed weapons at the University of Montana and other colleges across the state was defeated.
The House rejected Senate Bill 143 on a 51-49 vote, with 10 Republicans joining all 41 House Democrats in voting against the bill.
SB143, sponsored by Sen. Cary Smith, R-Billings, would prohibit the Board of Regents from banning firearms on campus except under very specific circumstances, such as at events where alcohol is served. If the bill passed, anyone with a concealed weapon permit could possess and carry a gun on campus.
The Board of Regents, which governs the state university system, has prohibited the carrying of weapons on Montana campuses since 1990. Students who own firearms can store them with campus security while at school. The university system opposed SB143.
House Speaker Austin Knudsen, R-Culbertson, said recent mass shootings on U.S. college campuses are the best reason for supporting the bill. “What do all of these incidents have in common?” he said. “Gun-free zones. Bad guys having access to unarmed victims. That is unacceptable to me and I think it should be unacceptable to you.”
Opponents, however, said the bill would make campuses less safe. Rep. Jeff Welborn, R-Dillon, said a friend of his, Tim Hull, was shot and killed on the Montana Tech campus in Butte in 1982, and that Hull’s father had pleaded with Welborn to vote against the bill.