Bill Would Allow Students to Keep Guns in Vehicle

By Beacon Staff

A state representative from Columbia Falls is set to appear before the House Education Committee this week to discuss proposed legislation that would allow students to keep hunting rifles in vehicles parked in a school lot.

Current state law prohibits students from bringing firearms to school, even if they are locked in a vehicle. Students who violate that law must be expelled for at least a year, though school board trustees may modify the punishment on a case-by-case basis.

The Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell reports that Republican Rep. Jerry O’Neil’s bill, which will be presented Friday, would eliminate the expulsion requirement and exempt firearms that are kept in locked vehicles. Some consider that exception necessary in a state where hunting is common and students occasionally forget their rifles in their vehicles after hunting trips.

The state Office of Public Instruction says in the last three years, Montana schools have reported more than 79 violations involving shotguns, rifles, handguns or other firearms.

In December, Columbia Falls High School student Demari DeReu faced an expulsion hearing after inadvertently bringing an unloaded hunting rifle to school. She remembered the rifle and told school officials when contraband-sniffing dogs arrived on campus.

DeReu was later allowed back at school.

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