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Montana Board Of Regents Votes To Sue Over New Campus Carry Law

Board Of Regents Votes To Sue Over New Campus Carry Law

Montana higher education officials are legally challenging the constitutionality of a new law allowing concealed carry of firearms on college campuses.

Montana's Board of Regents, the state body overseeing public higher education, voted unanimously during a Wednesday meeting for a judicial review of the new law. Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the policy back in February.

Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian shared his thoughts.

“You know, I do view our role as a partnership with the Legislature,” he explained. “But sometimes even partnerships need clarity.”

The state’s constitution grants the Board of Regents full power to control the Montana University System, and the Board says they have received an unprecedented amount of feedback on the new law. 

The Board of Regents heard public comment before their vote. Mae Nan Ellingson, a delegate to Montana’s 1972 Constitutional Convention, urged the regents to pursue legal action.

“You have the obligation, in my opinion, to preserve this hard-fought and important grant of power,” she said.

Tim Capps, an employee at Montana State University, says the new gun law affirms the right to bear arms, and that a legal review would be a waste of time. 

“What I believe is not open for debate is whether or not the board has the authority to override the Constitution of the United States.”

Now that the Board has decided to challenge the gun policy, they can ask either a district court or the Montana Supreme Court to review their case. 

Karen Ogden, a spokerson for the Montana University System, says it is not clear when the suit will be filed or how that filing will impact the law’s effective date. The policy is currently set to take effect on June 1.

Republican Rep. Seth Berglee, who sponsored the new law, says he is disappointed by the regents’ decision. He believes it will “have a chilling effect on their relationship with the Legislature in the future.”

In deciding to pursue legal action, the Board of Regents has forfeited the $1 million allocated by the Legislature for colleges to implement the new law. That money was contingent on the board avoiding legal action.

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.