Montana Law to Require State Colleges, Universities to Permit Campus Carry
- By Matt Jones
- February 22, 2021
On Thursday, Feb. 18, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill into law expanding the rights of law-abiding gun owners in the state. House Bill 102 allows the concealed carry of firearms for self-protection without requiring written authorization from the government (that is, a concealed-carry license). Previously, local governments had retained the right to restrict the open or concealed carrying of guns in public spaces.
Most relevantly, the new law dictates that the Montana University System adopt the looser restrictions by June 1.
Montana University System Deputy Commissioner Kevin McRae said that university regents and staff are working on plans to adapt the policies of college campuses around the state to the new law. “There are two things we know,” he said. “First, the Board of Regents’ May meeting will have a lot of decisions to make regarding firearms policy. And second, the regents and the U system will stay committed to keeping our campuses safe places for students and staff and the public to teach and learn and grow and thrive.”
Currently, only campus police are authorized to carry weapons openly while on campus. University of Montana students who live on campus are required to keep their registered firearms like rifles and pistols in a secure facility in the UM Campus Police Office.
McRae also commented that the university is not taking any steps to block the change. “We’re not talking about litigation – we’re getting asked about it,” he said. He did say that university staff is researching the campus-carry policies of other state university systems around the country.
Students around campus seemed relatively indifferent to the policy change. “I grew up in a really small town and I knew a lot of people with concealed carry permits,” said Eleasha Zitzelberger, a University of Montana psychology major. “I feel college students won’t go out of their way to do that.”
Similarly, English education major Rowan Crabtree said, “In my social circles, I don’t hear anyone expressing the need for more guns. I’d rather be able to see them than it be all concealed-carry.”
“Gun-free school zone” policies still nominally exist, but this new law may supersede them. According to gun lobbyist Gary Marbut, Montana state law allows “any law-abiding gun owner to be considered licensed by the state,” effectively neutralizing the 1,000-foot exclusion zone around schools.
“We’ve had permit-less carry since 1991,” he said. “You haven’t needed government permission to put on a coat when wearing a gun since then.”