Senate OKs proposal to allow guns in Capitol

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HELENA — The Senate on Wednesday endorsed a Kalispell legislator’s proposal to allow lawmakers to carry concealed handguns in the Capitol. If it passes on a final vote Thursday, it then heads to the governor’s desk.

Rep. Randy Brodehl’s House Bill 280 would allow concealed carry for state representatives on all state property, with the exception of state prisons.

It initially cleared the House and Senate on largely party lines, but the House rejected a Senate amendment that would have allowed the Senate Sergeant at Arms to also carry a concealed weapon, but didn’t extend the same privilege to that position in the House.

A conference committee of lawmakers from the two chambers on Monday agreed to strip out the amendment, requiring the Senate to approve the original version, without the amendment.

Brodehl said his bill is intended to demonstrate the safety of any state resident having the right to concealed carry if they meet the law’s requirements, and suggested it could deter threats against lawmakers’ lives.

“We’re certainly no more special, no more qualified or deserving than any other Montanan,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing last month. “However, as a legislator who has received death threats while at the Capitol, and have had my wife at least tacitly threatened due to a bill I carried, I take this very seriously.”

Gun-control groups objected to the fact that the proposal would allow concealed carry for people who have not fulfilled the training requirements under current Montana law.

“When legislators are sworn into office, handgun training is not part of the ceremony,” Marlene Simms, representing Mothers Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told the committee. “We cannot assume that legislators automatically know how to carry a gun simply by virtue of the office they hold.”

Brodehl also introduced legislation this session to allow citizens to possess firearms on U.S. Postal Service property. It passed the Legislature in February, but was vetoed by Gov. Steve Bullock.

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