Proposed Initiative Calls For Concealed Weapons In Montana Schools
Signature gathering soon begins for a proposal to allow public school employees with a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon in school. Initiative-175 has cleared the necessary legal hurdles to appear on the 2016 ballot if sponsor Chet Billi can get the necessary number of signatures.
Billi's a 17 year old senior at Whitefish High School and a self-described gun enthusiast.
"It bothers me whenever we have a national tragedy such as a Sandy Hook or Columbine that the first thing people want to do is take guns away from the very people who could stop incidents like this."
Montana School Superintendent Denise Juneau says this proposal is both risky and unnecessary. Juneau also says many schools are already training for various crisis situations.
Montana’s Attorney General has approved the language of a proposed ballot measure that would allow public school employees with valid permits to carry a concealed handgun in school.
Billi believes armed public school employees would be the best deterrent to a potential school shooting incident.
"The possibility that there could be a teacher carrying (a weapon on school grounds) I think is going to act as more of a deterrent to violence in our schools than the current signs we have outside our schools that say 'No Firearms Allowed'".
Juneau disagrees, "No, I'm not going to support the new initiative."
She thinks it's a bad idea to start allowing guns in schools, even if those firearms are carried by responsible employees with valid concealed carry permits.
"Because schools are supposed to be safe places for learning, adding guns into that mix threatens that," says Juneau. "It just has so much opportunity for crisis to happen that it's just a bad idea."
Juneau says Montana schools are actively working with law enforcement to develop crisis-response protocols for all kind of situations. She feels that's the best way to prepare for problems.
Billi believes there is a different way to solve gun-related problems.
"If somebody is dead set on killing somebody, the law is the last thing on their mind," says Billi. "The way you stop someone like that is you put a gun in the victim's hands. The whole purpose of a concealed handgun is that nobody knows you have it."
Billi need to collect over 24,000 valid voter signatures to get I-175 on the 2016 ballot. He says he hopes to recruit Montana gun retailers to help him do that.