Education Montana Politics

Guns on Campuses: Expensive, Unconstitutional, and Dangerous

Predictably, the Republican-controlled Senate voted today to allow people to carry concealed weapons on Montana college campuses, despite opposition from the Board of Regents, college faculty members, law enforcement, and Republican Senator Duane Ankney, who noted that more guns on campus will make shooting situations even more dangerous when the police arrive.

The timing of the vote, which still requires passage in a third read through the Senate, came at a the perfect moment, as the Idaho Statesman reported yesterday that the cost of a concealed carry bill on Idaho campuses cost the state $3.7 million:

Five of Idaho’s universities and community colleges have spent more than $1.5 million to beef up security after the law allowing concealed weapons on campuses was approved, and the schools expect total costs to top $3.7 million for the year. The schools likely will have to absorb the cost from existing funds.

At the time of its passage, Idaho legislators argued that the bill would have minimal costs. And, predictably, the fiscal note for the bill in Montana says there will be no cost to our state. Given the experience of Idaho, that seems an untenable position to maintain.

The bill also raises serious constitutional questions. As the legal note for the bill explains, the Montana Constitution establishes that “The government and control of the Montana university system is vested in a board of regents of higher education which shall have full power, responsibility, and authority to supervise, coordinate, manage and control the Montana university system and shall supervise and coordinate other public educational institutions assigned by law.”  The proponents’ position depends on absolutist reading of the Second Amendment rooted in the belief that it can’t tolerate any regulation, a position never held by any court in the country, a position undermined by the existing regulation of guns on Montana campuses as well.

Worst of all, the proposal will make campuses less safe for students. Proponents argue, as did Senator Kris Hansen, that women will be able to use guns to defend themselves on dark campuses or that more guns will prevent “massacres” on campus by deranged gunmen. It’s just not true, as study after study demonstrates. Slate Magazine summarizes this research:

Moving from state-level analysis to the household or individual, the risks for gun owners become even more apparent. A recent meta-analysis of 16 studies examined the relationship between firearms and gun deaths. Gun ownership doubled the risk of homicide and tripled the risk of suicide.

When you take the already occasionally potent mixture of young people experiencing some of their first real freedom and the easy availability of intoxicating substances, the last thing that needs to be added is easier access to weapons.

Gun advocates argue that even if all of this is true, the presence of guns will save lives, because of defensive gun use, yet another conservative myth fed by terrible research methodology that actually defies statistical logic. Gun owners may want to believe that their guns have warded off criminals, may want to believe that they’ve prevented millions of crimes, but the truth is that defensive gun use is so rare as to be statistically insignificant. Thus far in 2015? About 134 cases of verified defensive gun use which goes along with a generous guess of about 3,000 cases a year.

Increased access to guns on campus may give some the sense they are more secure, because their fears about the threat of violence have been stoked unreasonably by the gun lobby who has simultaneously convinced them that guns are safe to own, despite all the evidence to the contrary. And this is the fundamental insanity of the gundamentalist agenda: its adherents oppose every law that would impose any reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, sales, and use–and then turn around and argue that we need more guns to keep people safe from the very guns they’ve encouraged ownership and use of. In short, they increase gun violence, and then used that violence to justify the presence of more guns.

Isn’t it time we stop writing gun policy to indulge the fantasies of wannabe heroes who stoke our fears about the very violence they encourage? Who ignore law enforcement and education officials who beg them not put more people at risk? Who denigrate the work of security offices and their personnel so they can carry their guns in one more place?

Hopefully, the Montana Senate will do just that on its third read of this bad, broken bill–and put the safety of Montana students ahead of these zealots. Let the Senate know that they can buck the gun lobby and do what’s right.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.


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  • Guns are already on college campuses in Montana, it’s not hard to walk into Montana colleges with a handgun in a backpack. I was at Montana State in 2009 when i was in the lunchroom and overheard a student at the next table over remark that he forgot to leave his handgun out of his backpack to his buddies. I saw the handgun in the case in his backpack. What Idaho did in beefing up security was their fiscal choice, it probably wasn’t a necessary layer of security.

    • That’s hardly a reason to change the law, though. People commit murder; people speed on highways; people steal. That some ignore the law is not a reason to make their actions legal.

  • And if you catch the Marsbutt, it will cost you 3.7 million ere i’be cured!
    All of this nonsense is designed to attract even MORE outta state inbred Cracker Jaysus Jumpers to Montana, and it’s working! Hell, now over half the Lege is inbred outta stater Jaysus Jumpers like Kriz Handscum! For folks who luvs Cracker Jaysus so much, they are sure afraid of dying! Why is that?
    But seriously, guns on campus? Stupid, stupid stuff. I have a niece headed off to Bozeman next fall, and I hate the thought of armed students all over the place, for really, what could go wrong? Well, exactly what DID go wrong when that kid from Great Falls murdered those two kids from Billings! Remember that one? (trebas was prolly still in diapers!) He mistakenly thought that they had broken into his truck, so he knocked on their dorm door. When they opened the door, he opened up with his shotgun! What could go wrong with a Marsbutt proposal?
    Hell, lets do it right. First, lets arm the Post Office employees, ALL of them, every single ONE of them! Yes, that’s right. That way, if you’re gonna go postal, you’re gonna have face shooters!
    But one more thing. Summer classes. Ever take them? Just WHERE are them cute little coeds gonna HIDE them concealed little pistols when nearly everything ELSE on them is unconcealed?! Yowza! I used to go to summer school just to see the sights! And buddy let me tell ya there ain’t NUTHIN’ like them see through outfits! No room for a gun in there!

  • Having guns around to “defend” yourself will just wind up in more innocent people getting killed. In the aftermath of the shooting where Gabby Giffords was wounded and nine people died, two individuals who were lawfully carrying guns in that shopping center came forward and commented that they almost shot some of the people who were trying to help get the gun away from Jared Loughner. Fortunately, both of them had cooler heads and put their guns away before they caused more unnecessary deaths that day.

    This does go to show however, that it is very easy for an incident to turn into a complete and utter bloodbath with multiple shooters who don’t know who is the perpetrator all shooting at each other and at innocent victims all over the place with no understanding of just what is going on. This could be especially true on a college campus with immature individuals (under 25) who have not developed the thought processes to be able to calmly assess the situation before making things worse.

    While there is always some argument about the “right” to have a gun here or there, I would argue that there is also something to be said for paying attention to the science of brain development, the atmosphere of an institution of higher learning, and try to bring the focus on our college campuses back to their purpose – education of our young people instead of turning them into an armed militia camp.

  • I have a grandkid in high school and others soon to be in high school. It’s going to be hard for me to recommend Montana colleges and universities when folks are packing heat. I’ll bet there are other parents/grandparents who feel the same way. Not sure that I can afford out-of-state tuitions. I’ve set up a small fund for them and am going to try to help out with tuition costs when I can. Hope they can get some scholarships.

    UM is my alma mater and I think highly of Montana’s university system but I don’t want my grandchildren getting shot.

  • The offender had a weapon in about 1 in 10 rape and sexual assault victimizations against both students and nonstudents.
    Rape and sexual assault victimizations of students (80%) were more likely than nonstudent victimizations (67%) to go unreported to police.
    With 10% of rape assaults involving a weapon, just how are the defenseless to defend themselves? As to going out of state here the the rape assault stats. Remember 80% of rape assaults are not reported. Just where is it safe?

  • I’m not seeing the correlation here. Often alcohol and drugs are involved. Are you suggesting that introducing guns into student rape scenarios would mitigate the situation? I believe there are better ways to deal with student rapes than firearms.

  • Problem is, Sonny, as I see it, is that inbreds are NOT the brightest dudes around! After awhile, even tolerant people get annoyed at their endless and repetitive antics and simply laff at them! I think that’s kinda where Gen. Marsbutt and his First Inbred Irregulars are at. They’ve worn out their welcome, and now, they are simply wasting valuable Lege time! The reality IS that most people could care LESS what Gen. Marsbutt does with his little gun! It simply makes NO difference is the business of the state. He’d probably make MORE of an impression on folks if he ran around inside the capital with his wingding hanging out! At least then, someone might take notice! (maybe instead of a concealed carry law, an UN concealed carry law would make the general happy!) Sad, so sad. Me theenks that some folks need to get a life.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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