Senate Judiciary considers new legislation for firearms on school grounds

HELENA, Mont. - A new piece of legislation would leave it up to local governments to determine if a student can be expelled for having a firearm on school grounds.

If signed into law, this bill would no longer require school districts to expel students, and instead, leave it up to the specific school district involved.

Those in favor of this bill say it would establish the power of choice with local governments and districts, and cited specific examples of students who have been suspended. Sen. Carl Glimm (R-Kila), the bill’s sponsor, spoke about one student who accidentally left a hunting rifle in her truck.

When her school authorities launched a drug search, she gave them a heads up about the rifle...and was suspended for a year as per the federal statute. Glimm says this bill puts decisions like these back in the hands of Montanans instead.

"This gives them a little bit of control, a little bit of leeway that if it’s an accident and if they see fit, its local control, they can make that determination,” Glimm said. “I think that is the best place where that decision is made."

Opponents to the bill say that if passed, this would make Montana non-compliant with federal laws on the matter. It would also set up potential issues with the Guns-free Schools Act if they sign the current bill into law.

"In this case, it’s important to comply with the federal law because the failure to do so brings with it the potential of placing all of ESEA funding at risk,” Lance Melton, speaking on behalf of the Montana School Boards Association. “And in Montana, that's near 50 million dollars a year."

From here, this bill will most likely go into the amendments process, with the clock ticking ahead of the transmittal deadline. It means that all general bills have to pass through either the House or Senate before that time, otherwise they will receive no further consideration in the legislative process.

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