Montana Supreme Court Strikes Down Campus Conceal Carry in HB 102
On Wednesday, the Montana Supreme Court struck down part of House Bill 102 that was passed by the 2021 Montana Legislature.
HB 102 specifically stated that the Montana University System could not ‘regulate, restrict, or place an undue burden on the possession, transportation, or storage of firearms” by someone who had met certain safety and training requirements, however, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the Montana Board of Regents has complete authority over the safety and security of each campus.
Deputy Commissioner for Government Relations and Public Affairs for the Montana University System explained to KGVO News the reasons for asking the Montana Supreme Court to strike down the concealed carry aspect of HB 102.
"The Board of Regents decided that it needed to probably seek some clarity on that bill and whether or not that was within the purview of the Board of Regents or with the legislature," said Thigpen. "And so that's that's sort of the how the case came about, and that would have been following last session."
Thigpen said the question of the Board of Regents authority had to be settled with the Montana Legislature.
"The question was really over the authority of the Board of Regents versus the authority of the legislature," she said. "The Montana Constitution vests the Board of Regents with the full authority to manage and control the university system which includes the state's 16 public colleges and universities. And that was the basis for the court's decision."
KGVO also reached out to Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen for his comments on the Montana Supreme Court's decision.
"My thoughts are that the Supreme Court blew the call," said Knudsen. "Certainly the Montana Constitution does grant the Board of Regents some authority over university campuses, but that's not this overarching care radical authority that apparently the Montana Supreme Court is hell-bent to give the regents. Taking this ruling to its logical conclusion that the Montana Supreme Court has basically said that the Board of Regents has complete and utter iron-fisted control over anything that happens in the university systems."
Knudsen extrapolated on what this competitive authority might include.
"Taken to its logical conclusion, does this mean that the Board of Regents can decide that you no longer have the right to free speech on campus?" he asked. "Does this mean they can decide that they have the right to come to search your private residence or search your vehicle without a warrant? This is a scary ruling, but this literally is what the Montana Supreme Court found in this HB-102 ruling."
State Representative Seth Berglee also provided this cautionary statement.
‘This is a dangerous, slippery slope decision from the Montana Supreme Court. The justices have decided that a group of unelected bureaucrats can use their own judgment to determine the scope of your constitutional rights on college campuses, all without oversight by the people or their elected representatives. Our constitution states that keeping or bearing arms “shall not be called into question.” If the Board of Regents can restrict this right, what's to stop them from restricting free speech, due process, voting, or executing warrantless searches and seizures on university property? That unelected Board of Regents members can unilaterally limit constitutional rights should concern all Montanans. This is the most pro-government, anti-freedom ruling I've seen from the Montana Supreme Court in a long time.’
Read the Montana Supreme Court decision here.