The Montana House Judiciary Committee has given its support to a bill that would expand options for both permitted and permitless concealed firearms. The policy proposal would allow concealed carry at universities and state government buildings.
The committee voted 12 to 7 along party lines to advance House Bill 102 to the House floor.
Sponsor and Republican Rep. Seth Berglee of Joliet said the legislation is intended to expand self defense rights and limit gun-free zones, which he says criminals do not observe.
“I think it behooves us as legislators and as state officials to allow people their constitutional rights, and not prohibiting them," Berglee said.
Republicans on the committee rejected an amendment by Democratic Rep. Ed Stafman of Bozeman that would have cut sections of the bill related to the Montana University System. Stafman was concerned about the impact increased gun access would have on student populations already at high suicide risk.
Currently students living on major Montana University System campuses must store their guns with university police.
Republicans, who hold majorities in the state House and Senate, have prioritized the measure amid renewed hope it can pass this year with a GOP governor in office for the first time in 16 years.
Numerous bills to relax gun regulations in Montana have been vetoed by Democratic governors in the past decade.