In an editorial, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle urged readers and the Board of Regents to challenge the new law forcing colleges and universities to allow anyone to carry concealed, loaded firearms on campus with very few exceptions. From the editorial [emphasis added]:
“All of us who live in Montana have a stake in this ill-advised change in policy. Students carrying firearms on campus could be a catalyst for a violent event. The readily availability of guns in dorms and classrooms could contribute to the state’s already high suicide rate among young people. Montana has the third highest suicide rate in the nation and 60% of suicides are done with guns
No formal polls have been conducted but anecdotally at least, there seems to be little support for this change in campus policy. Faculty, staff and students express uneasiness about the prospect of guns on campus. And knowledge that guns are allowed on campuses will discourage students — both in-state and out-of-state — from attending Montana’s colleges and universities.
The regents may be understandably anxious about challenging the Legislature. They may fear lawmakers — who appropriate funding for the schools — will seek budget-slashing retribution. But this is too important an issue to let slide over monetary concerns.
Time is running short. Let’s let the regents hear from all of us on this critical issue.”
When the bill was introduced, lawmakers promised that it would not cost the universities and colleges anything. But other states that have passed this legislation have shown that guns on campus can cost millions. In 2014, Idaho passed legislation that forced colleges to allow people with “enhanced” permits to carry guns on campus. As a result, five state schools had to request more than $3.7 million from the state to increase security in the first year alone.
Guns don’t belong on college campuses, and campus stakeholders agree. In surveys conducted in 2013 and 2012, 95 percent of college presidents and 94 percent of college faculty indicated they oppose concealed carry on campus. A wide swath of surveys conducted as recently as 2018 across multiple college campuses showed a majority of students were opposed to allowing guns on campus.
Access to firearms also triples the risk of dying by suicide. Montana’s gun suicide rate is more than two times that of the national gun suicide rate. On average, 176 people in Montana die by gun suicide every year—accounting for almost 85 percent of all gun deaths in the state and the second highest rate of gun suicide deaths in the country. The state also has one of the highest rates of youth firearm suicide in the country.