In a recent article in the Montana State University Exponent, Kevin McRae, Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education, has publicly declared the opposition of the Montana University System (MUS) to the passage of Senate Bill 143 (Cary Smith-R) allowing concealed carry of firearms on MUS campuses.
The issue of campus carry legislation is now gaining national significance with Montana as one of the states involved in the debate.
In spite of the stated opposition of the Montana University System (MUS) to Senate Bill 143, there exists the appearance of duplicity on the part of the MUS. This appearance of conflict between words and actions arises from the fact that Montana State University (MSU)-Bozeman will be facilitating the annual fundraising banquet and firearms raffle/auction of the Bridger Mountains Chapter of the Friends of the National Rifle Association (NRA). This event will take place on Saturday, April 4, 2015 in the MSU Strand Union Banquet Hall.
Fifty percent of the proceeds of this fundraising event go to the national NRA Foundation. The NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), the lobbying arm of the NRA, currently advocates at the State level legislation for concealed carry of firearms on college campuses. This includes actively advocating for passage of Senate Bill 143 in Montana.
Facilitating a fundraiser for an organization actively lobbying for the passage of legislation opposed by the Montana University System sends a conflicting message regarding the MUS position on Senate Bill 143 both to students and the public. This is especially perplexing given that firearms are part of the official 2015 NRA Merchandise Package provided to the local organization for raffle/auction at their annual fundraising banquets.
Not only is the fundraiser being held on an MUS campus, but a select segment of the public is apparently being granted special permission to bring guns to campus for the purpose of raffling/auctioning them for funds that will then be used to support an organization currently advocating for a bill opposed by the MUS that allows concealed carry of guns on campus.
A clear solution to this appearance of duplicity would be to not facilitate NRA fundraising events on the campus of an MUS institution. Indeed, there are many off-campus venues in the Bozeman area that could host such an event.
The same mixed message was sent by the MUS in 2013 when similar campus carry legislation (House Bill 240) was passed by the Montana Legislature and subsequently vetoed by the Governor.
That year, the same annual Friends of the NRA fundraising event was held in the Strand Union Building at Montana State University in Bozeman.
It is one thing to have open debate about the issue on campus, but quite another to facilitate on campus fundraising efforts by a group clearly working in support of the very campus carry legislation opposed by the MUS. The words indicate MUS opposition to Senate Bill 143, the actions speak otherwise.