Montana House Rejects Bill to Allow Guns in Schools

Fifteen Republicans joined 41 Democrats Monday to reject the bill in a 56-44 vote

By MATT VOLZ, Associated Press

HELENA — The Montana House on Monday voted down a proposal to allow teachers and administrators to carry concealed weapons in classrooms and on school property.

Fifteen Republicans joined 41 Democrats to reject the bill in a 56-44 vote. It is one of several measures that state lawmakers are considering that would loosen gun restrictions, but all of them so far have been either vetoed or voted down.

The measure by Rep. Seth Berglee, R-Joliet, would have allowed full-time school employees who meet certain shooting standards to carry concealed weapons on school property.

Berglee said during the half-hour debate that an average school shooting lasts only three minutes, leaving little time for police to react in time.

“Who’s going to be able to respond in time to stop a shooting that happens in three minutes?” Berglee said. “The only person is going to be someone who is in that school.”

An FBI study of active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013 found that 44 of 63 shootings in which the duration could be determined ended in five minutes or less. Twenty-three of those ended in two minutes or less, according to the study.

House Speaker Austin Knudsen, R-Culberson, also supported the measure, saying concealed weapons permit holders are among the safest gun owners in the nation.

Lawmakers who voted against the bill noted that their constituents have been vocal in their opposition of it. Rep. Moffie Funk, D-Helena said 1,189 people contacted lawmakers about the bill by phone or through the Legislature’s messaging system, with 1,109 people against it and 80 for it.

That does not include people who contacted lawmakers directly, she said.

“Our constituents, the people who sent us here, don’t want this,” Funk said.

Rep. Ellie Hill Smith, D-Missoula, said similar bills have been rejected in each of her four legislative sessions, and that lawmakers should kill it and get back to more important matters.

“Let’s quit scaring our kids back home, let’s quit looking like a bunch of political ideologues, do what folks want us to do and get back to work growing the economy in Montana,” Hill Smith said.

Last week, Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed bills that would have allowed guns in post offices and would have eliminated the need for concealed weapons permits.

Other measures are pending, such as a bill to allow lawmakers to carry concealed guns in the Capitol and other state property and another to allow guns in restaurants where alcohol is served.