Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Effort under way to allow guns on Montana college campuses

MISSOULA — On a hot summer evening in 2011, University of Montana police and the Missoula Police Department responded to calls of a shooting in the parking lot of the campus dining hall.

The 19-year-old victim had suffered a shotgun wound to the hand. The 20-year-old suspect, later identified as Michael Ream, was taken into custody without incident. As it turned out, the two were buddies and the .20-gauge shotgun had accidentally discharged, marking the first time a weapon had been fired on campus in nearly 30 years.

The Montana Board of Regents has strict policies regarding firearms on public campuses across the state. The law has been unchanged for years, and allows only trained and certified security officers to carry weapons on school grounds.

Students who want access to their firearms must store them in a campus gun locker. They can check them out as they please to hunt and sport shoot. They cannot, however, carry them to class or handle them in their dorm rooms.

“Things have run smoothly with our current policy and procedures,” said Kevin McRae, associate commissioner of higher education for the Montana University System. “There’s already a state law saying you can’t carry a concealed weapon in a state building. Additionally, we have a Board of Regents policy saying that only an authorized campus security officer can carry a weapon.”

While some argue that the state’s policies work just fine, as evidenced by the lack of problems reported by campus police, Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, stands among gun rights advocates who believe that the Board of Regents has no authority to ban firearms on campus.

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