Montana lawmakers address gun issues and campus carry restrictions
Bill on guns and campus carry regulations
HELENA -- Versions of House Bill 203 have been around before; it would prohibit state and local officials from enforcing any federal guns bans.
For gun rights advocates before the House Judiciary Committee of the Montana Legislature on Tuesday, it's about the Second Amendment and state's rights.
"While the federal government has the ability to do a lot of things we cannot control, we have the ability to control our own state officers and local officials," MT State Representative Art Wittich (R-Bozeman) said.
"The Congress cannot commandeer the resources of state and local governments," said Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association.
"Now the Second Amendment shall not be an infringed, and then it doesn't say, 'except for.' So it's clear," 10th Amendment Center coordinator Tim Ravndal said.
But the bill faces stiff opposition from law enforcement and others, who said it puts officers in the position of violating laws they have sworn to uphold.
"I think from the sheriffs' perspective this is a misguided effort and an ill-advised attempt to send a message to the federal government," Jim Smith of the Montana Sheriffs & Peace Officers Association said.
"The burden that will be placed on peace officers with this bill is tremendous," added Jerry Williams of the Montana Police Protective Association.
"In addition, this bill just really feeds on the fears around the president and federal gun regulation, and it is based on general anti-government militia ideas," Rachel Carroll Rivas of the Montana Human Rights Network said.
Opponents said the bill could affect the relationship between federal and local authorities in areas of growing crime like the Bakken oil region of western North Dakota and eastern Montana.
"It complicates an already difficult situation," Smith said.
Over in the Montana Senate, lawmakers heard a proposal to open the door to guns on university campuses.
Senate Bill 143 would limit the type of gun rules the Board of Regents could make.
"The Board of Regents believe that they can infringe upon our Second Amendment right," said MT State Representative Cary Smith (R-Billings).
A University official said the Regents were in good company with the Legislature itself, which prohibits guns in all state buildings.