Posted: Feb 12, 2013 4:28 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - The debate over gun control is continuing to be a hot topic at the Capitol as lawmakers discuss where firearms should and should not be allowed.
"What this bill is talking about is individual self-defense," said Rep. Cary Smith (R-Billings) about House Bill 240, which would allow students to carry guns on public college campuses.
"Last year there were two rapes on campus. If something like that were to happen to me right now, I couldn't protect myself. I have the means, I have the ability, and I have the training to protect myself. But because of the laws right now, I'm not able to," Montana State University student Christine Gobrogge explained.
Students who live on campus can currently bring their unloaded weapons to school and check them in with university officials, but any other use of a firearm is strictly prohibited.
"No we do not permit open carry, and we also do not permit conceal carry," state Associate Commissioner for Higher Education Kevin McRae.
The Montana University System opposes the bill citing legal concerns, and a legal review states the bill may conflict with the Montana Constitution, saying the control of the university system is vested with the Board of Regents, not the Legislature.
However, supporters of the bill say the university's policies violate their Second Amendment rights.
The House Judiciary Committee also heard testimony on House Bill 302, a measure that would prohibit the state from enforcing any federal ban on semi-automatic guns and magazines.
"We've got to be able to rein in some of the overreach that is going on within the federal government," Winfred resident Ed Butcher said.
However, the Montana County Attorney's Association and sheriff's in the state oppose the bill, saying they don't want the Legislature telling them what federal laws to enforce and which ones not to.
"The sheriffs don't really want to be put in the middle of ideological debates that are going on," commented Jim Smith with the Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officer Association..
The two pieces of legislation aren't the only gun bills being heard this week, as the committee will also be debating the use of silencers and concealed weapons.
The House Judiciary Committee also heard public comment Tuesday on a bill which requires federal law enforcement officers to check in with the local sheriff before arresting someone or conducting a search and seizure operation.