Posted: Feb 10, 2013 4:54 PM by Lindsey Gordon - MTN News
Updated: Feb 10, 2013 7:17 PM
HELENA - Montana lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it legal for students to bring guns onto school property if they keep them locked in their cars.
The bill states that a firearm secured in a locked container approved by the district or in a locked motor vehicle the entire time it is on school grounds or property is not considered to have been brought to school or possessed at school.
Columbia Falls student DeMary DeRue forgot she had a rifle in the trunk of her car about a year ago.
MT State Representative Jerry O'Neil (R-Columbia Falls) recalled, "And said, 'Hey, I've got a rifle in my trunk that I had for hunting and can I go move my car off of school property?'
But instead of allowing her to move her car off of school property, DeRue was suspended from school for weeks.
Bill opponents say that the law already provides for these situations.
"Where the student is out hunting the weekend before and they forget to take a firearm out of their vehicle, it allows a local board of trustees to modify that requirement of expulsion on a case-by-case basis," explained Deborah Silk with the Montana School Boards Association.
"I don't think there is a teacher or support staff who would support this bill," added JC Weingartner with the MEA-MFT teachers union. "We have to remember were dealing with a bunch of hormonal, adolescent kids."
House Bill 384 also seeks to clarify what does not constitute a firearm - a picture of a firearm, a fraction-sized replica, imitating the sound of a firearm discharged, and forming your hand into the shape of a gun.
Advocates of the bill noted that those disciplinary actions students like DeRue face have lasting impacts.
"The profound impact disciplinary action, especially expulsion has on the lives of students, particularly those who are seeking scholarships, admissions to certain universities, government employment," said Doug Nulle with the Montana Shooting Sports Association.
The bill would also give students the right to due process before expulsion and if passed, the law would apply for the school year beginning after July 1, 2013.