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Montana House Endorses Expanded Conceal Carry Bill

The Montana House on Wednesday supported a bill that would expand options for both permitted and permitless concealed firearms, including at universities. The floor debate led to a rare procedural disagreement among lawmakers.

Republican Rep. Seth Berglee of Joliet said during a House floor session that his bill would expand self-defense opportunities during active shooter situations that police can’t immediately respond to.

“I’ve conducted training across federal law enforcement, throughout the military, overseas, foreign nationals, across the board. And I can tell you, the reality of a good guy with a gun stopping an attack is a thing," Berglee said.

The House endorsed House Bill 102 on a 67 to 33 party line vote and it will be put to lawmakers in a final vote before it clears the chamber.

Democrats opposed the bill, saying law enforcement officials have expressed concern about other armed people confusing the response to an active shooter situation.

Democratic Rep. Jim Keane of Butte was worried about the level of training required with concealed carry and the potential for a concealed carrier to accidentally shoot an innocent bystander.

On the House floor, Keane was beginning to talk about suffering a gunshot wound in 1957 when Republican Rep. Derek Skees of Kalispell, who was presiding over the session, stopped him and said the story wasn’t relevant to the bill.

Keane had previously asked bill sponsor Berglee if he’d ever been shot, which Skees said was an intensely personal question.

“The only reason I stopped you good sir, was when you asked him if he had been shot he was visibly shaken, didn’t like the subject. That’s a violation of decorum," Skees said.

Keane said the question was relevant to gun safety.

“It’s unfair in this house to stifle discussion on the first hard bill so a representative can’t uphold what he believes," Keane said.

Democratic House Minority Leader Kim Abbott said Skees’ move set a dangerous precedent that wasn’t evenly enforced for other lawmakers during the debate.

A third House reading isn’t yet scheduled for the concealed carry bill.

Copyright 2021 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kevin is a UM Journalism graduate student and reporter for MTPR.
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