In 2020, at 20 years old, I was elected as a Republican to represent House District 3 in Flathead County. One of the key reasons I tossed my hat into the political realm was to bring a fresh, youthful voice into a broken, corrupt and aged political system.
One of the most highly contested bills of Montana’s 67th session evolved around House Bill 102, sponsored by Rep. Seth Berglee. The bill allows for permit-less carry across the state of Montana and prohibits the Montana University System and Board of Regents from infringing on constitutional rights to carry on campus. The bill was signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte in February.
In recent weeks, the Board of Regents has filed a lawsuit in state district court challenging HB 102, and last week a state court in Helena blocked the law from taking effect on Tuesday.
The state of Montana owns and operates the Montana University System. The Second Amendment of the Constitution states “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Board of Regents is not elected by the people of Montana, and they have no right nor authority to block state law and infringe on a student's constitutional right to carry a firearm to protect themselves and other students.
I can name countless friends in our university system who currently conceal carry on campus and have firearms in their dorms, which is currently not allowed on campus, but they feel obligated to keep others safe and they do it anyways. These students are responsible and have the background and knowledge to safely own and equip firearms.
Allowing for students to carry on campus has many potential benefits. One benefit that is near and dear to myself is that it has the potential to decrease sexual assault on campus. It is found that 19-27% of young women on campus are raped, and if a young man knows that a young women may be carrying a firearm on campus, I believe it will drastically drop sexual assault cases on campus.
The people of Montana spoke in November. They sent a clear conservative/Republican mandate to Helena to represent them. All 67 House Republicans voted for this bill, and all 33 Democrats voted against it. A note to take in for your consideration: Three state representatives are under the age of 25, making us college-aged. Though we might not always agree on legislation, all three of us voted for this bill.
If voters thought we were responsible enough to serve as their voice at our age, then students our age are responsible enough to carry a firearm and protect themselves and other students. We represent the college-aged students in the state of Montana, not the Board of Regents.
We will win this fight.
Rep. Braxton Mitchell, R-Columbia Falls, represents House District 3 in the Montana Legislature.