- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The state Senate narrowly endorsed a bill Wednesday that would allow people to carry concealed weapons on college campuses in Montana.

Sen. Cary Smith, R-Billings, said with some exceptions, the measure would prohibit restrictions on guns on state university property.

Under Smith’s Senate Bill 143, Montana’s board of regents would keep the authority to regulate the firing of guns and possession at campus events where alcohol is served. They also could regulate guns in dorms if a gun owner’s roommates don’t give permission to keep a gun there. It would also allow some regulation on taking a weapon out of a holster, pointing it at a person and how weapons are secured.

“People say you can’t have guns on campus because it causes shootings,” Smith said. “I would argue it prevents some of these tragedies.”

Sen. Kristin Hansen, R-Havre, said women should be able to carry guns on campus for protection.

“College campuses are full of dark pathways and large parking lots,” she said. “I don’t think there are a ton of women who want to carry a gun, but I do think there are some, and the Constitution gives them the right to do so.”

Opposing senators said college is not the place for guns.

Sen. Mary McNally, a faculty member at Montana State University Billings, said current regulations put in place by the board of regents work.

“I find campuses to be quite safe,” the Democrat said. “I think women know how to take care of themselves.”

Sen. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, said he’s taken a thumping on his NRA rating over opposing similar previous bills but he remains in opposition.

“When there is a shooting on campus and the SWAT team comes in … SWAT don’t know who friendlies are and they’re going to go down,” he said about armed students who try to handle a situation themselves.

Senators endorsed the measure 25-24, making it unclear whether it will pass and move to the House upon a final vote expected this week.

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed a similar bill in 2013, saying guns and college campuses don’t mix.

Seven states - Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin - allow the carrying of concealed weapons on public postsecondary campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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