Defense or danger? Bill allows concealed carry at Montana schools

Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, was one of two supporters testifying in favor of House Bill 385, which would allow concealed carry on school grounds. (Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service)

By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – Lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow full-time school employees with concealed carry permits to carry handguns on school grounds.

House Bill 385 would create the Montana Safe Schools Act.

John Moffatt, a volunteer for Moms Demand Action for Gun Safety in America, testified against the bill on Tuesday in front of the House Judiciary Committee

Moffatt was a principal at Fergus High School in Lewistown when he was shot in his abdomen by an active shooter on campus.

“I know absolutely there is nothing I could have done, even had I been armed at that time,” Moffatt said.

Moffatt was joined by 24 others testifying against the bill including mothers, educators and counselors.

“It’s overwhelmingly opposed by the people closest to the situation; the teachers and administrators. Supporters of this legislation have absolutely no skin in the game,” Moffatt said.

President of the Montana Shooting Sports Association Gary Marbut, one of two people who testified for the bill, said he’s taught gun safety to more than 5,000 people and said teachers can be safe with firearms as well.

“If they are sufficiently competent to be entrusted with our children, I absolutely guarantee you that I can train them, or others can train them, to be perfectly safe with firearms,” Marbut said.

Marbut brought up the case of Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 students and six adults were shot and killed by an armed gunman.

“That the principal died beseeching the assailant to not kill children, but I have to tell that beseeching just did not work. It did not work for her. She died,” Marbut said.

Rep. Seth Berglee, R-Joliet, is the sponsor of the bill and said the bill would create a line of first defense for schools.

“It does make sense in the case of an active shooter, that having individuals in those systems armed would be a good idea and would be effective,” Berglee said.

Moffatt said arming anybody in a scenario like this would not have made his experience any better.

“And being surrounded by screaming, yelling kids, staff members would have added to what was a disastrous situation,” Moffatt said.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.