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Montana Senate Supports Concealed Carry Bill

Theresa Manzella speaks into a microphone.
Montana Public Affairs Network
Montana Republican Sen. Theresa Manzella introduces House Bill 102 on the Senate floor Feb. 2, 2021.

Correction: A previous version of this story said Sen. John Esp was the only Republican to oppose HB 102. Sen. Brian Hoven, a Republican from Great Falls, also voted against HB 102. YPR News regrets the error.

The Montana Senate on Tuesday offered its support to a bill that would expand concealed carry of firearms rights in the state, including at universities and government buildings. After already moving swiftly through the House, YPR News’ Kevin Trevellyan reports the proposal is one step closer to landing on the governor’s desk.

House Bill 102 would allow permitless concealed carry in places where Montanans can already openly carry guns. Concealed carry on a university campus would require training, following the addition of a committee amendment. Carrying in a state government building would require a permit.

Hamilton Republican Theresa Manzella is carrying the bill in the Senate.

“Anywhere a criminal has the ability to carry, a law abiding citizen should have the right to carry also,” Manzella said.

The Senate passed House Bill 102 on second reading on a nearly party line 30-20 vote.

Big Timber Sen. John Esp was among the two Republican holdouts, saying previous lawmakers, including his grandfather, had repeatedly decided against expanding concealed carry rights in order to preserve public safety in heavily populated areas. In committee, Esp had previously sought to strike a portion of the bill allowing concealed carry in places that serve alcohol.

“In my view, this bill goes too far. It doesn’t resonate with my common sense," Esp said.

The Senate is expected to pass House Bill 102 on third reading Wednesday. It would then go back to the House for another vote as amended.