Judge blocks campus carry law until further notice

The Board of Regents is suing over constitutionality of legislation

A District Court Judge ruled in favor of the Montana Board of Regents on Monday in blocking the implementation of a law that would allow expanded access to carry guns on college campuses until the policy’s constitutionality is resolved in court, saying the board would suffer irreparable injury if the law were to go into effect.

The decision came just hours after the Board of Regents and the Attorney General’s Office appeared in court to argue whether to extend the temporary restraining order put in place on the law in late May.

In his ruling, Lewis and Clark County District Judge Michael McMahon agreed with the Board of Regents’ argument that House Bill 102 runs contradictory to existing campus policy and that implementation of the bill would strip the board of its constitutional right to manage campuses, causing irreparable harm.

“Here, at this juncture, it appears HB 102 interferes with the Board’s constitutional authority to control, manage, supervise, and coordinate the MUS,” he wrote. “This would include, but not limited to, the Board’s authority to prioritize and implement firearm policies on MUS campuses and locations as set forth in Policy 1006.”

In a lawsuit filed by the Board of Regents against the State, the board argued HB102 unconstitutionally infringes on its ability to manage college campuses across the state.

“A preliminary injunction does not resolve the merits of this case, but rather prevents further injury or irreparable harm by preserving the status quo of the subject in controversy pending adjudication on its merits,” the ruling said, meaning that the final decision on whether the campus-carry is legal will be up to the same court at a later date.

The state argued Monday HB102 is about ensuring safety on campuses and is within the Legislature’s police power, which the board is subject to.

“Here, as agreed to by Montana, a constitutional issue remains whether either the Legislature or the Board has the police power to protect the safety and well-being of those who utilize MUS campuses and location,” McMahon wrote. “In this regard, there should be no dispute that there are very few constitutional rights which are always absolute and inalienable.”

McMahon shut down the state’s argument that a block on the bill’s implementation would infringe on Second Amendment Rights; writing the amendment is limited in scope.

“At this juncture in this proceeding, the Court has not been presented with any controlling legal authority that the right to keep or bear arms on MUS campuses and other locations under either the United States Constitution or the Montana Constitution is an absolute right,” he wrote. “Furthermore, there is doubt who has the constitutional authority to regulate firearms on MUS campuses and other locations.”