A bill makings its way through the Montana Legislature would authorize university students and faculty the unrestricted permission to possess firearms – in dorm rooms, classrooms, anywhere on campus they would choose to do so.
If those people have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, they could carry it hidden in their clothes, or not. If they don’t have the permit, they could keep the loaded gun in their dorm room or strap it visibly on their hip and walk freely about campus.
As a student, a parent of a student or a university administrator, that should give you pause. We’re talking about a bunch of 18- to 24-year-olds (10,000-plus) possibly packing heat on the MSU campus.
And while we don't disagree with the constitutional right to bear arms, such a situation on Montana's campuses is clearly a bad and dangerous idea.
The common argument for freedom to carry guns is the Virginia Tech shooting, where a gunman killed 32 students six years ago before turning the gun on himself. Such incidents are covered in the media so extensively they seem common but are actually extremely rare. A student killed two other students in a fit of revenge 23 years ago on the MSU campus. Those were the last gun-related killings in the institution’s 120-year history.
The college years can be stressful, and all college campuses are a volatile mix of young people of various degrees of maturity dealing with the gamut of academic and emotional challenges – and that's without considering the use of alcohol and drugs common on college campuses.
The Montana Board of Regents, too, is against the bill and argues that the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that there are “sensitive places,” including schools and government buildings, where firearms can be restricted. Further, Kevin McRae, an associate commissioner of higher education for Montana, notes the “puzzling double standard” that the Legislature currently bans firearms from the Capitol and other government buildings.
Puzzling indeed. Our students deserve to be safe. Adding unrestricted possession of firearms on our campuses takes us not closer, but further away from that goal.