Judge Blocks Bill That Would Allow More Guns on Montana College Campuses
House Bill 102 sought to expand the places where guns may be carried without a permit and to allow permitted carry in more places.
HELENA, Mont. — A judge ruled Tuesday that Montana lawmakers overstepped their authority in passing legislation that would allow more people to carry guns in more places on public college campuses.
District Court Judge Michael McMahon granted the state Board of Regents’ request for a permanent injunction against House Bill 102, which aimed to block the regents from regulating the possession or storage of firearms on Montana University System campuses, reports AP News.
Under Montana’s Constitution, the Board of Regents has the authority to regulate the university system, and McMahon argues that includes creating campus firearms policies. The Board of Regents’ current policy bans firearm possession on campuses except for trained law enforcement and security officers. It also has a policy for governing the storage of and access to firearms on campus.
HB 102 sought to expand the places where guns may be carried without a permit and to allow permitted carry in more places, including establishments that serve alcohol, according to The Independent Record. The regents filed a complaint in May arguing the part of the bill that applies to college campuses was unconstitutional. McMahon granted the board a temporary injunction in May and Tuesday’s ruling blocked enforcement of that portion of the law.
Supporters said the law would increase the ability of citizens to defend themselves.
“While this Court is mindful that Montana has a legitimate interest in protecting the public, it is equally mindful that (the Montana Constitution) provides the (Board of Regents) with a constitutional shield from majority tyranny relative to the governance and control of (Montana University System) property,” McMahon wrote.
McMahon further cited U.S. Supreme Court decisions ruling that individual rights under the Second Amendment are not unlimited, including restrictions on felons or those with mental illness, as well as limitations on firearms in schools or government buildings.
Attorney General Austin Knudsen said his office plans to appeal the ruling.
“We disagree with the judge’s decision. State law applies on college campuses,” said Emilee Cantrell, a spokesperson for Knudsen. “The Board of Regents does not have the power to pick and choose which state laws it will follow. Montanans do not forfeit their constitutional rights when they step foot onto a college campus.”