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The latest Montana politics, elections and Legislature news.

Lawmakers Consider Bill to Arm School Employees; Expand Where People Can Carry Guns

John Moffatt testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on House Bill 385 that would allow school employees to carry a concealed weapon. Moffatt was shot by a student at Fergus High School in 1986.
John Moffatt testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on House Bill 385 that would allow school employees to carry a concealed weapon. Moffatt was shot by a student at Fergus High School in 1986.
John Moffatt testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on House Bill 385 that would allow school employees to carry a concealed weapon. Moffatt was shot by a student at Fergus High School in 1986.
Credit Jackie Yamanaka
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John Moffatt testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on House Bill 385 that would allow school employees to carry a concealed weapon. Moffatt was shot by a student at Fergus High School in 1986.

Lawmakers are considering several bills to expand where citizens can carry guns.  This includes one that would allow teachers and other school employees to carry a concealed weapon on school grounds.

Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association supported House Bill 385.

“I can tell you having trained over 5,000 people to be safe with firearms that teachers can be safe with firearms too,” he said. “If they are sufficiently competent and are trusted with our children I absolutely guarantee you that I could train them, that others can train them to be perfectly safe with firearms.”                 

It’s more than safety, countered John Moffatt, who has had an over 40-year career as a teacher, coach, and school administrator.

Moffatt also was shot by a student, Kristofer Hans, at Fergus High School in Lewistown in 1986. He remembers passing Hans in the hallway.

“And at that time he raised the gun and shot me in the abdomen.  I was severely wounded. I was on my hands and knees and knees on the floor,” said Moffat. He remembers looking up and seeing the barrel of the pistol pointed at his head. “He stopped. Took a second shot. Missed.”

Moffatt thought the resulting pandemonium caused the student to run out of the building without firing another shot. He said he’s reflected on that scene many times since. He told the House Judiciary Committee he even thought about what if another teacher or administrator had had a gun.

“There is nothing I could have done even had I been armed at that time,” Moffatt said. “And I can only imagine that the outcome would have been worsened by anyone trying to intervene not knowing for sure exactly what had happened, not understanding who the shooter was, or any of those details and being surrounded by yelling, screaming kids, staff members. It would have added to what was already a disastrous situation.”

Moffatt was just one of the educators and parents who spoke against allowing a school district employee with a valid concealed weapons permit the authority to carry that weapon on school property.

The House Judiciary Committee did not immediately vote on the bill.

In the meantime, 3 gun bills were also up for debate on the House and Senate floors Tuesday. The Republican-controlled chambers gave preliminary approval to all of the bills.  All face a third and final vote.

House Bill 280 allows legislators to carry concealed handguns on state property.

House Bill 246 would allow a handgun to be carried on U.S. Postal Service property

House Bill 262 would allow someone to conceal their weapon even if they don’t have not gone through the background check and received a permit.

Copyright 2017 Yellowstone Public Radio

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