Legislative Roundup – Week 2
Concealed Carry Bill, Local Health Boards Face Scrutiny in Legislature’s Second Week
By Austin Amestoy
Legislative News Service University of Montana School of Journalism
Tense Standoff Between Legislators Disrupts First Gun Bill Debate The Montana Senate will now consider a bill that would greatly expand where concealed weapons can be carried in Montana after the House of Representatives passed House Bill 102 along party lines.
The debate over the bill briefly ground to a halt last week as one lawmaker shut down another’s comments as a violation of decorum.
Members of the Montana House of Representatives were debating HB 102 when Rep. Jim Keane, D-Butte, who opposed the bill, asked Rep. Seth Berglee, R-Joliet, if he had ever been shot.
Berglee, who sponsored the bill, which allows concealed carry on college campuses and inside banks, among other places, is a military veteran.
Rep. Derek Skees, R-Kalispell, was presiding over the House that day and cut Keane off, ruling that his question was irrelevant and a violation of decorum because of its deeply personal nature.
“The fact is, this bill makes our communities and college campuses less safe,” said Rep. Kathy Kelker, D-Billings.
Rep. Frank Garner, R-Kalispell, voiced strong support for the measure. Garner, a former Kalispell Chief of Police, said the bill would allow citizens to properly defend themselves, adding that the only people who carry guns in restricted areas are criminals.
“I’m sorry I don’t agree with all my brothers and sisters on this, but it is time for us to provide the opportunity for law-abiding citizens in our communities [to concealed carry],” Garner said. “Criminals be warned—that’s what we’re doing here today. We’re empowering the citizens of Montana.”
Standard procedure quickly dissolved after Skees ruled Keane’s question was inappropriate. House Democrats in the room rose to their feet to oppose the ruling, and with enough members of the House in opposition, the decision on whether to allow Keane to continue was pushed to a vote on the floor. Keane lost the vote 56-41, and Skees allowed him three more minutes to speak on a different topic.
“In this bill, while it says ‘safety,’ people will die,” Keane said, expressing concern over an increase of gun violence, both deliberate and accidental. “When those issues come up and those things happen, who holds us accountable? No one. No one holds us accountable.”