The Montana University System and Firearms
Authority, Policy, Discussion and Conclusions
© by Gary Marbut*, 2008
This paper will discuss the treatment of firearms by the Montana
university system, the authorities available, the policies applied,
discussion of the reasonableness of any regulatory effort, and
Excluded from this discussion will be laws and policies relating to
regulating campus security personnel and the firearms they are allowed
In the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, there is renewed interest
in the role of firearms on university and college campuses, and in
regulation of firearms on campus. This is an issue of national
interest. University and college administrators desire to make
campuses as safe as possible for students and employees, and may have a
legal duty to do so. Some believe that adopting campus policies
limiting or banning firearms will make campuses safer for
everyone. Others believe that those intending Virginia Tech-type
assaults will not be deterred by mere campus policies, the only effect
of which will be to insure a defenseless pool of unarmed victims
incapable of mounting effective resistance to mayhem.
This has been a matter of policy debate in Utah for several years, and
is the subject of proposed legislation in Virginia, South Dakota,
Arizona and other states. What is the status of this discussion
Montana Constitution. The
chief controlling authority in Montana is the Montana
Constitution. The right of individuals to bear arms in Montana is
secured from government intrusion by the people of Montana with a clear
statement at Article II, Section 12 of the Montana Constitution.
It is worth repeating that declaration of right here in full:
Section 12. Right to bear arms.
The right of any person to keep or bear arms in defense of his own
home, person, and property, or in
aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall not be
called in question, but nothing herein contained shall be held
to permit the carrying of
Several points are worth noting about this declared right.
1) The Montana Supreme Court has said that the individual rights
reserved by the people to themselves in the Montana Constitution are
specifically a direct bar to government actors. (St. v. Long, 216 M 65,
700 P2d 153, 42 St. Rep. 643 (1985))
2) There is no question but what the Montana university system is
a government entity - a creation of government -, and that its
employees and managers are government actors. It is funded by
government and its structure and activities are determined and governed
by Montana law, including the Montana Constitution. The
university system exists only as authorized by law, perhaps an exact
definition of a government entity.
3) The wording of the right to bear arms in the Montana
Constitution is unchanged since the adoption of the territorial
constitution in 1884 and the statehood constitution in 1889, including
with the Montana constitutional revision in 1972.
4) The right to bear arms in Montana is a personal and individual
right under the Montana Constitution, and no sort of right of
government as is sometimes argued about the Second Amendment to the
5) The right to bear arms clearly contemplates the right of "any
person" to defend himself or herself, and to defend their home,
whatever their home may be.
6) The right to bear arms does not include a right to carry
concealed weapons, defined in the law as concealed by an article of
clothing, a practice in Montana that is a privilege granted by the
7) The right to self defense and the right to possess the
necessary tools for that purpose is well-supported by other provisions
in the Declaration of Rights in the Montana Constitution, including
Sections 3, 4, and 10. 
The Montana Constitution says at Article X, Section 9:
(2) (a) The government and
control of the Montana university system is vested in a board of
regents of higher education which
shall have full power, responsibility, and authority
to supervise, coordinate, manage and control the Montana university
system and shall supervise and
coordinate other public educational institutions assigned by law.
While this is a broad grant of constitutional authority, it does not
grant the Board of Regents authority to dismiss, ignore or override
other parts of the Constitution. Also, there has been tension
between the Board of Regents and the Legislature concerning the extent
of the authority of each over the university system, especially
concerning funding by the Legislature. The courts have supported
the Board of Regents in resolving this tension, saying that the
Legislature may not assert control with budgeting action that is given
to the Board of Regents by the Constitution in Section 9.(2)(a).
Other relevant authorities of the university system.
In addition to the foregoing, the university system has some other
common authorities. These include an employer's authority over
employees as a part of the employer/employee contract, a landlord's
authority over tenants as a part of the landlord/tenant relationship,
and it includes some authority over enrolled students as a condition of
enrollment. All of these authorities may be tempered by whatever
effect is produced from the restraint upon government actors by
reserved constitutional rights. For example, the Montana
Constitution reserves the right for citizens to bear arms to defend
their homes. Given this constitutional right, and given that the
property a tenant rents becomes his home and castle, may the university
system, acting as a government agent, bar tenants in university housing
from possessing firearms to defend themselves and their homes?
Probably not, but this is not settled law.
Authorities not derived from the Board of Regents.
The Montana preemption law at 45-8-351, M.C.A. generally prohibits
local government entities, cities and counties, from regulating
firearms. It does allow cities and counties to prohibit the
carrying of concealed or unconcealed firearms into public buildings and
other places. At (2)(a) this statute says:
A county, city, town,
consolidated local government, or other local
government unit has power to prevent and suppress the
concealed or unconcealed weapons to a public assembly, publicly owned
building, park under its jurisdiction, or school,
and the possession of
firearms by convicted felons, adjudicated mental incompetents, illegal
aliens, and minors.
Under this statute, a school is a K-12 school as defined in other
Montana law. It is at most a misdemeanor to violate a city
ordinance. Most first class cities in Montana have adopted an
ordinance to implement the authority granted under 45-8-351(2)(a),
M.C.A., and most, perhaps all, of the campuses of the Montana
university system are located at those cities. Some question may
exist about whether or not some campuses have been annexed into the
cities in question, and, therefore, whether or not a local city
ordinance is enforced or enforceable on campus.
The Montana "prohibited places" law at 45-8-328, M.C.A. makes it a
misdemeanor for a person to carry a concealed weapon into a staffed
building used by a local or state governmental entity, but it does not
apply to unconcealed carrying of firearms in the places it covers
(including bars and banks).
Application of these state laws may be problematic given the historic
resistance by the Board of Regents to legislative authority. That
is, it may not be possible for the Board of Regents to both claim full
autonomy from legislative authority and claim authority from the
Legislature. Certainly the Board of Regents allows some
expression of legislative authority on university system campuses, such
as prosecution by the state of a person committing theft on a
university campus. But, even the Constitution offers the Board of
Regents no police power, such as the power to criminalize prohibited
conduct and punish violators with imprisonment. The question of
the extent to which 45-8-351, M.C.A. and 45-8-328, M.C.A. may be relied
upon by the university system to address firearm issues on campus may
remain a murky area of law.
Other state laws remain in effect on campuses, laws that criminalize
the misuse of a firearm for a criminal purpose, such as murder,
assault, robbery and endangerment (title 45-5-201, 213 M.C.A.).
Also in effect are laws prohibiting discharge of a firearm inside city
limits, except in self defense (45-8-343, M.C.A.), prohibiting carrying
of a concealed firearm by an intoxicated person (45-8-327, M.C.A.), and
carrying a concealed firearm inside city limits without a permit
(45-8-315, 316, 317, M.C.A.).
Civil Liability. It is
assumed that the chief concern of university managers is the safety of
students and employees. In addition to their personal interest,
managers may even have a legal duty to provide for a reasonable climate
of safety. As a secondary issue, managers cannot ignore the issue
of civil liability for safety issues that are untreated or addressed
inappropriately. For example, if the fire exits on a campus
public assembly were chained shut (perhaps to avoid unwanted ingress)
and deaths from a fire resulted, the civil liability implications would
be huge. If there were a catastrophic incident on campus
involving what law enforcement call an "active shooter," having denied
students and employees the means to defend themselves by university
policy might be seen as analogous to having chained fire exits closed.
Prior restraint. In our
system, we try to avoid prior restraint of the exercise of
rights. Rather, we rely generally on punishment afterwards for
rights exercise abuse. For example, we don't put duct tape over
the mouths of theatergoers fearing that some unrestrained person will
shout "fire" in a crowded theater. Rather, we punish someone
afterwards if they should, without valid reason, shout "fire" in a
theater. Other avenues than prior restraint are required by case
law. For example, rather than gag the press to prevent inflaming
community sentiment about a heinous crime and resulting taint of the
jury pool, jurists must order public officials to silence, sequester
jurors if necessary, or move a trial to a location where an unbiased
jury pool is available and free from influence by pre-trial
publicity. Preventing exercise of the right to bear arms in
advance on the theory that some of those allowed to exercise their
right may abuse the right is in conflict with the practice of avoiding
The area of policy is more easily discussed. The Board of Regents
has established minimal policy concerning firearms. What policy
exists is announced at: http://mus.edu/borpol/bor1000/1006.htm
Sections 1, 2, and 3 of this policy relate only to carrying of firearms
by university security personnel and contract security personnel.
Section 4 leaves discretion over remaining firearms issues to the
separate units of the university system.
The various units of the university system have implemented this grant
of authority by the Board of Regents by adopting policies for specific
campuses. Generally, these policies specify under what narrow
circumstances those subject to campus policy may possess and store
certain types of firearms, and forbid other types of firearms.
As stated previously, the university system has some authority over
students as a condition of enrollment, including required good behavior
conducive to a learning environment and conducive to safety for
all. The system also has some authority over employees as a
feature of the employer/employee relationship, and over tenants
(students living in campus housing) as an element of the
landlord/tenant relationship. These authorities will be affected
by the rights all citizens possess under the Montana Constitution and
the Regents' lack of police power. Further, it appears that the
university system lacks any authority over persons not employees or
students, and must rely on legislated authority concerning firearms
possession by persons not employees or students, and that current
legislated authority applies only inside public buildings on campus.
It is assumed that university system administrators have the motive,
even the duty, to keep all personnel within their purview as safe as
can reasonably be done. Safety has many aspects, including
building safety, fire safety, accident prevention, safety in
laboratories, safety in residential life and more. Some safety
issues are easily quantifiable. For example, building codes
prescribe how many fire exits a building must have in relation to
building size, use and capacity. Other safety issues may not be so
simple to quantify and resolve. Whether or not to allow firearms
on campus, and under what conditions, likely falls into this category.
In observation of discussion among university administrators
considering firearm policy, it becomes apparent that there are two
distinct types of risk to be considered.
One type of risk concerning university managers is the potential for a
Virginia Tech-type mass murder, which we may call a "catastrophic
incident" for the sake of this discussion. The other type of risk
of concern let us call an "isolated incident," a single event of misuse
of or misadventure with a firearm, such as an accidental discharge, use
of a firearm to threaten another person, or an emergency report of a
firearms sighting that may be an innocent event except for an
unwarranted assumption on the part of an uncultured or panicked person
making the report. Before discussing these separate types of
risk, some comment about the background against which these are
assessed is in order.
Montana university system exists in a culture of high traditional
acceptance of firearms. The first recorded travelers to Montana,
the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition, were well-equipped with
firearms, and depended on firearms for their survival. The
ubiquity of firearms has not changed much since Lewis and Clark
It is estimated that over 90% of the homes in Montana contain
firearms. It is also estimated that the average home in Montana
that does contain firearms probably has about 27 firearms.
Montana has a higher percentage of residents purchasing hunting
licenses than any other state, significantly higher than the number two
and three states, Alaska and Wyoming. Montana has a very strong
and entrenched firearm culture. The employees of the university
system live amid this firearm culture, and many university system
students come from Montana and are steeped in this culture. The
income of the university system is derived primarily from people who
are a part of Montana's firearm culture.
Competitive shooting sports activity in Montana is common and
pervasive. Active practice and competition occur in trap, skeet,
sporting clays, highpower, bullseye, smallbore, cowboy action, mounted
cowboy, practical pistol (IPSC and IDPA), long range precision rifle,
blackpowder silhouette, metallic cartridge silhouette and others.
Active training with firearms in Montana includes ROTC, National Guard,
military reserve forces, law enforcement, self-defense, hunter
education for youth and all of the shooting disciplines mentioned
preceding. Hunting with firearms may be done in any month in
Montana. When limited seasons are not open for deer, elk, moose,
mountain sheep, mountain goats, antelope, bear, lion, ducks, geese,
pheasants, or grouse, a person may hunt coyotes, Prairie Dogs, Columbia
Ground Squirrels, Richardson Ground Squirrels, and others. Lots
of Montana citizens possess firearms in order to be able to defend
themselves - to be able to choose not to be victims. The U.S.
Department of Justice has estimated that, nationwide, there are 1.5
million defensive uses of firearms each year. 16,000 Montanans
have concealed weapons permits (CWP) (45-8-321, M.C.A.) issued by
county sheriffs after training and background checks. Many
university system employees and students engage in these activities.
The university system campuses do not exist in isolation. They
are a part of the Montana social landscape and the local communities in
which they exist. University employees live in the Montana
culture as do many students, and many university students are derived
from our Montana culture. Against this cultural background, how
can university managers realistically assess risk associated with
firearms, and how can any such risk be managed?
Risk assessment. Any
valid risk assessment must first separate actual, historical or
quantifiable risk from perceived risk. For example, a person with
a phobia of spiders might argue for an expensive program to fumigate
all university buildings to protect against the risk of spider contacts
and spider bites. Because of extreme concern about spiders, this
person might be willing to ignore the expense, which might detract from
financial ability to address more well-documented risks, might overlook
the potential health consequences to people of the fumigants used to
kill spiders, and might not even think about the possibility that
spiders could help control even more dangerous pests. An accurate
assessment of any risk associated with firearms in the university
setting must guard against bias not founded in quantifiable
information, and must consider both intended and unintended
consequences of measures taken to manage the risk.
It is supposed that risk assessment for an academic setting would be
more rather than less likely to be driven by a cool, rational
consideration than in other settings. For example, a recent news
story examined existing policies of banning firearms in national parks
and recent political pressure to revise those policies. A park
manager was quoted as saying that continuation of the decades-long
prohibition of firearms in national parks is necessary to prevent
poaching of wildlife in parks, and that poaching has increased nearly
every year since the prohibition has been in effect. It is
difficult to admire this as fully rational thinking when the advocate
posits continuation of past behavior with the assumption that repeat of
this historic behavior will somehow generate a different outcome than
it always has before.
While information may not be available to assess the actual or historic
risk of misadventure with firearms on university campuses, there
certainly is data to allow assessment of firearms risk in the Montana
culture in which Montana university campuses exist, as compared with
the nation as a whole and other parts of the nation. Whether the
estimate cited above (that over 90% of Montana homes contain an average
of 27 firearms) can be scientifically proven, there is little doubt
that Montana has firearm densities per capita near the greatest in the
nation, if not the greatest. If the mere presence of firearms
caused misadventure (accidents) or misuse (crime), then Montana would
have among the highest incidents of those in the Nation. Yet
notwithstanding the ubiquity of firearms in Montana, we enjoy much
lower crime rates than many other places where firearms are difficult
or impossible to possess legally. 
Also, for risk assessment purposes it is useful to know that all recent
occasions of catastrophic firearm incidents, such as the tragedy at
Virginia Tech, happen in what are called "gun-free zones," such as
schools and other places where the intended victims have been
prohibited the means to defend themselves. We may or may not be
able to conclude from this that gun-free zones are especially dangerous
places. What we can conclude is that those deranged individuals
bent on mayhem appear to select gun-free zones as a relatively
successful venue to commit their mayhem.
This thought experiment is offered for risk assessment associated with
firearms: If you and your family members were being stalked by a
person known to be intending personal violence (assault, rape,
kidnapping or murder), would you feel more or less safe for having
planted a sign in your yard announcing "No guns in this home"?
The answer to this question is one that university managers should
integrate into consideration of the actual risk of firearms in the
Types of incidents. With
this background it is time to evaluate the two different types of risk
that university managers need to address. As offered previously,
these are catastrophic incidents and isolated incidents. Let us
first discuss catastrophic incidents. While rare, such incidents
are horrendous. Rather than discuss fires and earthquakes, this
discussion will be limited to catastrophic incidents involving firearms.
Catastrophic incidents. A
catastrophic incident is typified by the massacre at Virginia
Tech. The hallmark of this and similar incidents is that, no
matter how much they wish it were otherwise, the authorities always
arrive too late to save those who die. While this analysis is
under preparation, another such incident occurred at Northern Illinois
University, perpetrated by a person not a student and not a university
employee. While NIU claims success because only five victims have
died so far (unlike the 30-something dead in Virginia), that assurance
is slim comfort to the next of kin of the dead victims.
At NIU, authorities brag that they were on site within two minutes of
the onset of the incident. In a video demonstration for
television news , this author fired 36 accurate shots in 30 seconds
from a revolver, firearm technology that dates back to the 1800s.
This rate of fire is sustainable for two minutes. Each round
fired is potentially fatal. This means that a madman with similar
skills could kill up to 120 people during NIU's touted two-minute
In response to this NIU incident, Citizens Committee for the Right to
Keep and Bear Arms asserted that this incident was "another failure of
the 'gun free zone' mentality that has created a false sense of
security on college campuses and other public venues across the
country." CCRKBA Chairman Alan M. Gottlieb continued, “This giant
loophole in public safety is becoming a national disgrace and it is
time to dramatically change our perspective on self-defense in this
country. This incident is particularly distressing because it happened
in Illinois, one of two remaining states in which anti-gun state
lawmakers and equally-anti-gun governors have repeatedly thwarted
common sense efforts to put law-abiding citizens on a level playing
field with criminals and crazies by adopting right-to-carry laws,”
Gottlieb stated. “Illinois … lawmakers have chosen to leave their
citizens at the mercy of killers who have no mercy."
It is obvious that "gun-free zones" are only gun-free for
victims. Such zones create only an illusion of safety, but no
actual safety (witness Virginia Tech and NIU). Illusion will not
stop a madman bent on mass murder. Only another person with a
firearm is likely to be able to stop such a madman. This is
exactly why police (who can rarely be there) carry guns. Since
authorities are at best two minutes away, disarming victims is surely
not the answer. For the disarmed potential victims of such a
madman, fervent prayer that the madman will kill someone else becomes
the most viable solution to the first minutes of such a threat. (See "Testing realities" of an active shooter incident.)
It is worth noting that police have no legal duty to respond at all to
these type of incidents, much less respond quickly. This question
has been litigated repeatedly and the courts have routinely held that
police have only a duty to provide a general level of protection to the
community, but have no legal duty to respond to specific incidents or
protect any individual.
There is an alternative. Montana is one of 37 states that has
authorized law abiding and trained people to carry concealed firearms
for self-defense. There is a vast amount of empirical data about
the millions of people who have been authorized to carry concealed
weapons over the past 30 years. As a class of people, they have a
lower incidence of misadventure with firearms and misuse of firearms
than the general public at large (most of whom don't carry firearms),
and lower than any other known class of citizens about which data
exist. The theory that CWP holders are somehow dangerous just
because they possess firearm is a myth, perhaps slander. They are
less dangerous than the average member of the general public, except to
criminals. This author is not aware of any CWP holder in Montana
who has been convicted of a crime for misuse of his or her concealed
firearm in the 16 years that Montana's modern CWP law has been in
effect - this despite approximately 136,000 permittee-years of CWP
experience and exercise in Montana. 
Further, in his book, More Guns, Less Crime, Professor John Lott
examines FBI crime data in every county in America reaching back 19
years. He statistically analyzes the effect on crime when states
adopt the sort of CWP laws Montana now has (45-8-321, M.C.A., et.
seq.). Lott discovered that by adopting such laws, and without
spending any money, legislatures confer a considerable boon of
increased safety upon all citizens. The major interpersonal
crimes of violence such as murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping and
assault decrease significantly in states adopting "shall-issue" CWP
laws, not because lots of criminals are getting shot, but because
criminals have a strong preference to avoid victimizing a person who
may be armed. In about 75% of defensive firearm instances, a shot
is never fired and the threat is dissuaded via a defensive display or
Lott discovered an even greater societal benefit of such shall-issue
laws. In states adopting such laws, the incidence of mass murder
drops on the order of 80%, except in artificially created gun-free
zones where this dynamic is not allowed to operate. Said
differently, the risk of mass murder is five times greater in gun-free
zones where trained and approved people are not allowed to exercise
CWPs than in areas where CWP-holders may exercise their permits.
This difference in risk has been quantified and documented.
There are two accepted reasons for this dramatic reduction of
risk. The first is that a mass murderer seeks success and
notoriety. The mass murderer is less likely to achieve these
goals if he is stopped before he can accomplish a truly horrendous
crime. That's why mass murderers do not attempt their crimes in
police stations, at shooting ranges, or on military
installations. The likely presence of armed persons able to
immediately interdict the event would rob the mass murderer of the
opportunity for success and the notoriety he requires, so he avoids
occasions and locations where interference would be likely.
The reason for the difference in risk reduction between crimes of
victimization of individuals and the crime of mass murder relates to
the density of firearms among a criminal's potential targets. In
Montana, for example, approximately 2% of the adult public have
CWPs. If a criminal is attacking one individual, there is a one
in 50 chance that the victim will be armed and able to resist
effectively - to choose not to be a victim - a definite risk to the
criminal but not daunting odds. However, if a criminal attacks a
crowd of 50 people, there is a near certainty that someone in the crowd
will be armed and able to thwart the attack, at least outside of a
Collateral damage. The
argument is sometimes made that if a madman is killing people in a
university setting and a legally armed student or employee should
attempt to stop the killer, there is an unacceptable risk that the
legally armed individual may inadvertently injure others. This
argument rests on several assumptions not substantiated by analysis or
The first assumption is that the killer will voluntarily stop killing
without intervention, so that any inadvertent injury caused by a
legally armed individual will be greater than the injury not caused by
the killer who voluntarily stops. The reality is that the type of
killers who committed multiple murder in Virginia Tech and NIU do not
stop voluntarily. They continue to run up the numbers of slain
until stopped by another armed person. So, the assumption that
inadvertent injuries that might be caused by an intervening legally
armed individual would be greater than the injuries likely to be caused
by an unstopped mass murderer is an incorrect assumption.
It ignores the established fact that a mass murderer will not stop
voluntarily - he is only stopped by another person.
Second, an assailant would likely be physically separated from his
victims, making him a lone target for an intervening armed private
person. Thus, any missed shots by a legally armed intervenor
would be less likely to injure another person. By contrast, an
assailant in a university setting is more likely to encounter a
clustered group of victims, facilitating mass injury by the
assailant. The theory of unacceptable collateral damage from
self-defense does not take this juxtaposition into account.
The third assumption is that if the victims just wait long enough,
those still surviving will no longer be at risk once police finally
arrive. This is simply not true. The national data for the
effectiveness of police shooting indicates that police officers
involved in gunfights actually connect with one out of thirteen rounds
fired (on average; the studies vary in result, from about one in seven
to as much as one in thirty, depending on which study one
selects). These missed shots by police go somewhere, and injury
to innocent bystanders is not uncommon. Conversely, the "hit
rate" by legally armed citizens is one in two, much better odds indeed
for the safety of innocent bystanders.
Finally, a historical note is in order. Historically, legally
armed private citizens have injured nobody else when interfering in the
killings by a would-be mass murderer. This includes actual case
histories of shootings in a high school in Mississippi, in a mall in
Utah, in a church in Colorado, and recently at a university in Israel.
Therefore, the claim that an armed citizen interfering with a mass
murderer may cause more injury than the murderer, albeit accidentally,
is not either an informed or rational argument.
The role of antidepressants. It is definitely worth noting that nearly all cases of mass
murder in recent U.S. history, and many other acts of violence, have
been linked to use or misuse of antidepressant drugs. These
include "Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors" (SSRIs), of which
Prozac was the first. Other SSRIs are Zoloft, Paxil
(Seroxat), Celexa, Sarafem (Prozac in a pink pill), Lexapro, and
Luvox. Other newer antidepressants included in this list are
Remeron, Anafranil and the SNRIs Effexor, Serzone and Cymbalta as well
as the dopamine reuptake inhibitor antidepressant Wellbutrin."
Isolated incidents. The
type of isolated incidents of firearm misadventure or misuse which
university system managers must analyze and address are varied.
There are both real problems and problems of perception only.
The real problems probably include an accidental discharge of a
firearm, a student using or threatening to use a firearm to solve an
interpersonal conflict, the theft or loss of a firearm inadequately
secured, the misuse of a firearm by a person under the influence of
alcohol or drugs, or the misuse of a firearm in an irresponsible,
playful or prank manner.
The problems of perception may include false reports of pending
violence because of a firearm sighting by a person not accustomed to
Montana culture, concerned reports of conversations about firearms,
mock or actual firearms used for display only, such as museum displays
or theatrical productions, and other similar events in which the
perception of risk is greater than the reality of risk.
Many of these problems, both real and perceived, should yield to
education, an endeavor that is the strong suit of a university.
While education may not eliminate the potential problem altogether,
education can be used to manage the problem to within acceptable limits
of risk. The educational approach is accepted for other types of
risk management, such as fire drills for fire safety and water safety
training to address risk issues around water. Firearm safety
training is commonly done for young hunters in Montana, has been done
for generations, and is an accepted and productive practice.
Before educational approaches can be initiated to manage any risks
associated with firearms, the nature and reality of the risk must be
assessed. For example, it would be misleading to assume the need
for specific risk management because someone says, "I am afraid that
XYZ could happen." Rather, it would be appropriate to examine the
history of whether or not a particular risk actually occurs, with what
frequency, over what period, and how the density of that risk occurs in
the demographic examined, and how the seriousness of that risk compares
with other known risks.
For example, it is very traumatic physically and emotionally to be
struck by lightning. It is sometimes fatal. Yet it is also
very rare. Does that mean we don't need to tell people to not
stand under a tree during a lightning storm? No. But,
should we require everyone to graduate from a six-week class on
lightning avoidance before being allowed to go outside? That
would not be a wise use of time and resources given the density of
risk. And, should the lightning avoidance training be required in
lieu of training about use of seat belts in automobiles? The
comparative densities of risk would not support that allocation of time
Once any risk associated with firearms is assessed in an objective
manner, then consideration may properly be applied to risk management
through education, and through regulation.
Youth and firearms.
Discussion is in order about the theory that young people are more
prone to act irresponsibly, and that allowing students to possess
firearms will result in misadventure with those firearms.
Available data does not support this theory, at least when applied to
young adults with CWPs. In Montana a person is allowed to apply
for and obtain a CWP if they are 18 years old or older. In CWP
classes instructed by this author, with nearly 1,500 graduates over 15
years, it is estimated that about 15% of graduates are 21 years old and
younger. So, we know that there are people in the 18-21 age range
who are obtaining CWPs in Montana. These people have the same
incidence of misadventure with firearms as all others - zero.
This does not prove young people generally are as responsible and
trouble-free as those who are older. It does demonstrate,
however, that young people who take the required training to obtain a
CWP, who submit to the required background check, who pay $50 to apply
for the permit and who provide a photograph and fingerprints have a
documented history of behaving as responsibly as older CWP-holders.
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein
The legal authority of the Montana university system to address firearm
issues is murky. While the Montana Constitution gives the Board
of Regents extensive authority to manage the university system, it does
not offer or confer authority to abrogate constitutional rights
reserved by the people to themselves. The right of "any person"
to bear arms in defense of self or home is clearly reserved as a right
of individual citizens in the Montana Constitution. The level of
judicial review of this right is specified within the right as "shall
not be called in question."
The university system has some authority over employees as an aspect of
the employer/employee relationship, as it does over those living in
campus housing as a part of the landlord/tenant relationship.
And, the university system has some authority over students in order to
avoid disruption, and to maintain safety and a suitable learning
environment. These employer, landlord and administrative
authorities are far from absolute, and are tempered by the
constitutional rights enjoyed by all citizens and by the doctrine that
constitutional rights act as a direct bar to government actors.
The university system appears to have no authority over persons not
employees or students.
The university system may rely on local or legislated authority that
prohibits carrying firearms in state-owned buildings, but those laws do
not apply to the areas of campus outside buildings.
The only policy about firearms that the Board of Regents has adopted
leaves discretion over firearms, other than campus security, to the
individual campuses of the university system.
In minimizing any risk associated with catastrophic incidents, the most
effective policy has proven to be to allow especially law-abiding
people to possess firearms for defense, and to avoid creating the
gun-free zones that are demonstrated to be such fertile ground for
To address risks associated with isolated incidents of firearm misuse
or misadventure, education would seem to be the best tool for risk
management, especially in a university setting. Educational
efforts must be based on objective risk assessment and not cater to
unsupported or irrational fear.
Finally, all of these issues must be examined and perceived through the
lens of a firearms culture that is ubiquitous in Montana and embraced
by the Montana Constitution.
Since university managers are limited in their authority to restrict
firearms on system campuses, and since firearm prohibition only creates
fertile ground for criminal acts, perhaps the best outcome could be
obtained through an open tolerance of firearms coupled with safety and
skill instruction for those willing to undertake the responsibility of
 See: "Concepts within the Montana Constitution relating to the right to bear arms", 2008, by Gary Marbut
 National Institute of Justice, NCJ 155476, May 1997
 More Guns, Less Crime, Professor John R. Lott, Jr.;
University Of Chicago Press; 2nd edition (June 15, 2000); ISBN-10:
0226493644; ISBN-13: 978-0226493640
 http://www.marbut.com/videos - Assault Weapons
 Montana currently has 16,000 CWPs issued. See:
Montana's shall-issue CWP law was adopted in 1991, for 17 years in
effect. Assume zero CWP in 1991 (underestimate), with an average
of 8,000 CWPs in effect each year for 17 years = 136,000 man
years. The number will actually be a bit larger because there was
a surge of CWP issuance in 1991, 1992, and 1993 when the new law took
 Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, "Armed Resistance to Crime: The
Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun," Journal of Criminal
Law and Criminology 86(1):150-187, Fall 1995.
*Gary Marbut is president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association,
author of the book Gun Laws of Montana, the author of many Montana laws
relating to firearms, an active self defense firearms instructor,
certified as a firearms instructor by the State of Montana, a
competitive shooter, a member of the International Association of Law
Enforcement Firearms Instructors, and has been accepted in state and
federal courts as an expert in firearm use, firearm safety and use of
Article by John Lott, Jr.
Columbine To Va. Tech To NIU: Gun-Free Zones Or Killing Fields?
News release by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, March, 2008
CCRKBA SAYS PRESS PURPOSELY DOWNPLAYS KEY ROLE OF ARMED STUDENT IN JERUSALEM
BELLEVUE, WA – An armed student at Jerusalem’s Mercaz Haray seminary
played a crucial role in stopping a gun-wielding terrorist Thursday,
but the American press is downplaying his heroism because it proves
that armed students can stop campus gunmen, the Citizens Committee for
the Right to Keep and Bear Arms said today.
Yitzhak Dadon, 40, was described as “a private citizen who had a gun
license and was able to shoot the gunman with his pistol” by reporter
Etgar Lefkovitz with the Jerusalem Post. However, many news agencies in
the United States are downplaying Dadon’s decisive role in the incident.
“Yitzhak Dadon is a hero,” said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb, “and he
is living proof that armed students have a place on college campuses.
Thankfully, his quick action was reported by the international press,
including Mr. Lefkovitz, so unlike incidents here in the United States
where the press was able to completely ignore the actions of armed
students or teachers, the truth about this incident will not be
“Mr. Dadon is not going to become a victim of this conspiracy of
silence,” Gottlieb continued. “Elitist American college administrators,
the national press, nor anti-gun politicians can sweep this incident
under their rug.”
Internationally published reports say Dadon studies at the yeshiva, and
had his pistol when the shooting erupted. When the gunman emerged from
a library, Dadon reportedly shot him twice in the head. The gunman was
subsequently shot by the off-duty soldier.
“Yitzhak Dadon’s apparently well-placed bullets interrupted a rampage,”
Gottlieb said. “What a pity that someone like Mr. Dadon was not in
class last April at Virginia Tech. What a tragedy that anti-gun
extremism would keep him from attending class at Northern Illinois
University. He would never be allowed to teach at Columbine High
School, hold a job at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City, or go shopping
at Omaha’s Westroads Mall.
“America’s acquiescence to anti-gun hysteria has led to one tragedy
after another,” Gottlieb stated. “This disastrous policy has given us
nothing but broken hearts and body counts, and it’s got to end. The
heroism of an armed Israeli seminary student halfway across the world
sends a message that we needn’t submit to murder in victim disarmament
zones. That’s why his actions are getting such short shrift from
America’s press. It’s a story they are loathe to report because it
affirms a philosophy of self-reliance that they despise.”