September 22, 2023

A Letter to Montana Governor in Support of HB240

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Dear Governor Bullock,

HB 240 will soon arrive on your desk. I hope you will sign it.

HB 240 presents a couple of interesting questions.

Does the Montana Constitution give the Board of Regents the power to suspend or alter the Montana Constitution, or to deprive Montana people of the rights they have reserved to themselves from usurpation by government actors in the Declaration of Rights?

Should trained and certified adults who have sheriff-issued concealed weapon permits be allowed to protect themselves by carrying firearms discretely on a Montana university campus?

There are several points I’d like to make in response to these questions.

1. No power to suspend constitutional rights. The Montana university system has for too long thought it had the power to dictate that people under its authority must quietly give up their rights and move to the back of the bus. In ever so unctuous language, U-system officials have explained that sitting in the front of the bus is socially unacceptable, makes others uncomfortable, and just doesn’t work well. With smooth words, they’ve asserted that the seats in the back of the bus are really very comfortable and the view is really great from there. They are full of carefully-explained, pragmatic reasons why people should only exercise the rights the U-system allows on the U-system’s plantation.

2. HB 240 applies to concealed weapon permittees only (Section 4(1) ). For guns on campus, HB 240 only applies to people who have had training, had a background check by the sheriff, and have been certified by the sheriff to not be “ mentally ill, mentally defective, or mentally disabled or otherwise may be a threat to the peace and good order of the community” (45-8-321(2) ). These are the government-certified “good guys.”

3. Do responsible people suddenly become irresponsible upon entering campus? The U-system must assert, without explanation, that people who are reasonable, trustworthy, and who have no documented incidence of misadventure with firearms off-campus suddenly become untrustworthy and dangerous just because they cross an imaginary campus boundary line and enter into conditions that the U-system controls. U-system officials may argue, for instance, that conditions on campus are “just different,” providing stresses that are likely to make otherwise sane people go crazy. That’s a stretch, but even if it were true, the logical solution would be for U-system officials to adjust whatever conditions they’re in charge of that are alleged to drive sane people crazy.

4. Mythical “gun free zones.” ALL mass shootings in recent history have happened in the dangerous and mythical “gun free zones.” This is not because of some freak of randomness, but because such “gun free zones” are magnets for madmen. By enacting a “gun free zone” policy, campuses are actually creating higher risk for people in those zones by setting up the magnet that attracts madmen like garbage draws flies. Of course, it is axiomatic that a crazy person intending to take human lives will ignore a mere campus policy prohibiting guns on campus. What “gun free zones” do is provide a government-enforced guarantee that there will be no effective resistance to the madman’s mayhem, at least for several minutes. In a recent Missoulian story about school safety, Lt. Rob Taylor is quoted saying, “When seconds count, the cops are only minutes away. We know that’s true, we live with that knowledge every day.” Taylor took the spotlight Tuesday night as he guided the Missoula County Public Schools public safety committee through a presentation called “Taking an Active Role to Counter Violent Attacks.”

5. Victims are the first responders. Police are not the first responders to violence against innocents. They are the second responders. The first responders are the intended victim(s) and others present. It makes no more sense to disarm the first responders than it would to disarm the second responders. How much policy sense does it make to tell a woman a block off campus that she may exercise her concealed weapon permit to prevent rape, but a block away, on-campus, she must allow herself to be raped because she may not exercise her government-issued permit?

6. Dire predictions found to be false. It is instructive that other states which allow exercise of concealed weapon permits on campus, such as Oregon, Utah, Colorado and others, have no evidence that that exercise of concealed weapon permits on campus leads to problems. None. There simply is no problem in other states with doing what HB 240 would allow in Montana. When Montana first considered its mandatory issue concealed weapon permit issue law in 1989, some “professional” naysayers testified that the result would be “rivers of blood running in the streets.” Of course, that dire prediction has been shown to be ridiculous, and wrong. With about 30,000 concealed weapon permits now issued in Montana, the crime rates for interpersonal violence in Montana have decreased steadily since 1991, when the CWP law was enacted. Further, there is no documented incidence of misuse of concealed weapon permits in Montana by those permitted.

7. Discouraging non-resident college applicants? The U-system argues that if guns are allowed on campus, it will terrify potential non-resident students and enrollment will fall off. It’s odd that states which allow firearms on campus have not experienced this alleged phenomenon. Further, since Montana allows open carry off-campus, permitless concealed carry in 99.4% of Montana (outside cities) and permitted concealed carry off-campus already, guns must not be a factor in current non-resident applications or they’d already be terrified of Montana culture. Finally, one of the reasons why non-residents apply for admission to Montana universities is to experience Montana culture. Why try to provide them with a campus culture suitable for Massachusetts?

8. Hunting? Really? Campus authorities brag that they already allow guns on campus – that students may bring hunting rifles to campus and lock them in campus storage rooms to be checked out occasionally for hunting. Those campus authorities have not explained where they find the word hunting in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or in Article II, Section 12 of the Montana Constitution. While the Montana Constitution does specifically guarantee firearms for self defense, campus authorities also have not explained how firearms locked in a campus storage room allow for self defense.

MSSA will appreciate your support for HB 240.


Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association