Senate Bill 143 passed on Thursday and will now be heard in the State House of Representatives. 

The bill, which would allow people with concealed carry permits to legally carry firearms on college campuses, was authored by Gary Marbut, President of the Montana Shooting Sports Association in Missoula.  However, it will be strongly opposed by the Montana University System and the Board of Regents. Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education Kevin McRae said on Friday, that allowing guns on campus would put students and faculty at risk.

"We don't believe that the introduction of firearms onto our campuses by the general public, by students or employees carrying guns would make our campuses any safer," McRae said. "Our campuses are already very safe. We already have a fully qualified and well-armed police force on campus and who are present at university events to ensure everyone's safety."

McRae welcomed the question that college campuses are considered to be 'gun-free zones', and thus are more susceptible to attack by an armed assailant.

"College campuses are in fact, not gun-free zones," he said. "We welcome students to bring their firearms on campus, where they are safely stored and are available for them to pick up and use. The notion that prohibiting people from openly carrying firearms on campus thus making it unsafe, is not one that we agree with. Law enforcement experts who have testified about these things in the past also disagree with the concept by supporters of the bill that if a shooter shows up on campus, people would only be safe when everyone can shoot back. If the issue is thought through carefully, one can see when police arrive on the scene, if everyone is armed, they would find it difficult to discern between the good guy and the bad guy."

McRae maintains that campuses in Montana are safe because only authorized personnel are allowed to be armed, and thus university system officials will actively oppose SB 143, and ask for the governor to veto the bill should it arrive on his desk.

A similar bill was vetoed in the last legislative session.

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