HELENA – Gov. Brian Schweitzer believes a university system policy banning those with concealed weapons permits from bringing guns on college campuses conflicts with state law, his campaign spokesman said Friday.
The issue arose the night before in a debate with Schweitzer’s Republican challenger, state Sen. Roy Brown. During the debate, Brown said it was wrong that those with permits to carry guns could not do so on college campuses.
Schweitzer, who is up for re-election in November, said he believes state law does not prohibit those with permits to carry a gun on campus.
“Well, obviously, people who have a concealed carry permit can carry on campus now. They have in the past, and they will in the future,” Schweitzer said during Thursday’s debate. “The question on concealed weapons, they are already on campuses. If you have the right to carry a gun, concealed weapon, you can carry.”
The Montana Board of Regents, however, has a policy restricting firearms to law enforcement and other officials.
On Friday, Schweitzer campaign spokesman Harper Lawson said the governor was referring to state law during his debate comments. And the governor believes the regents’ gun policy “conflicts with state law,” Lawson said.
“The governor thinks the policy should be changed, but that decision is ultimately up to the Board of Regents as to how, if and when,” Lawson said in a statement. “Right now, the governor thinks it’s more important that the board focus on issues like college affordability and the ability to transfer credits.”
At the debate, Brown said colleges are a “victim zone” where people can’t defend themselves from gunmen.
“Do you think a person who wants to go on the campus and cause harm on that campus is going to stop at a sign that says ‘no guns allowed’?” Brown said.
Brown has said he would support a lawsuit seeking to overturn the regents’ policy.
Schweitzer, who has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, does not think taxpayer money should be wasted on a lawsuit, Lawson said.
Both Brown and Schweitzer said they are supporting renewal of the statewide property tax that helps pay for universities. The Montana Shooting Sports Association, which endorsed Brown, wants people to vote against the initiative as a way to oppose the university system gun policy.
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