Montana Senate committee advances gun-rights bill after debate over amendments

2nd Amendment Rights

HB 102 would allow people to carry a concealed firearm without a permit in most places

HELENA — A bill that would expand where and how people could carry firearms has cleared another state legislative committee, after an extensive discussion about proposed amendments.

The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed House Bill 102 on a 7-4 vote Tuesday, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed.

HB 102, sponsored by Rep. Seth Berglee of Joliet, would make a number of changes to state gun laws. It would allow people to carry a concealed firearm without a permit in most places.

Those with concealed weapons permits would be allowed to carry in some additional areas, including state and local government offices and restaurants or other places where alcohol is sold. The bill would also limit the Montana University System Board of Regents’ ability to regulate firearms on college campuses.

The committee approved one small amendment to the bill Tuesday, saying concealed weapons could be restricted in secure areas of law enforcement facilities.

However, after a series of votes, committee members did not approve a more extensive amendment, supported by Berglee. That would have made a number of changes, including allowing judges to prohibit concealed carry in certain areas of courthouses, letting campuses regulate guns at athletic and entertainment events, and removing the penalty for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit where alcohol is sold.

Sen. John Esp, a Republican from Big Timber, objected to the proposed change on bars and restaurants, and he wanted to introduce his own language to broaden the change on courthouses. He wanted those sections to be removed from the amendment for a separate vote. However, other Republicans on the committee opposed separating the issues.

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