Helena, Mont. • A measure allowing people to carry concealed firearms without a permit in Montana's cities and towns is a logical addition to state law, Rep. Krayton Kerns told a legislative panel Monday.
The Laurel Republican said his "permit-less conceal carry bill" would give city dwellers the same privileges as rural residents, who already can carry a weapon underneath a coat without a permit.
"Right now I can walk down Main Street Laurel and I can carry a gun in my hand. I can carry it in my briefcase. I can carry it in my holster," Kerns told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The only thing I can't do is put my coat over my holster when I am walking downtown."
Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association President Jim Smith questioned what Kerns called logical. House Bill 304 isn't a simple "dress-code bill," but one that would erode the integrity of the existing concealed-carry permit process, Smith said.
The measure would allow people to carry a concealed weapon on the grounds that they feel they are responsible enough to do so but without the sheriff's knowledge or approval, he said.
"You shouldn't let people opt out because they feel that they can or they are otherwise eligible," Smith said.
The bill is one of two gun bills before the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with House Bill 459 another Kerns-sponsored measure that would prohibit medical providers from refusing to treat patients based on answers to questions about gun ownership.
The measure would still allow doctors to ask if a patient has firearms, Kerns said.
He said he believes federal government officials plan to use the answers to those questions to compile a list of gun owners that will be used against them to confiscate their weapons.
Kerns offered no substantive proof to back those claims.
A separate gun bill limiting the Montana Board of Regents' authority to restrict firearms on college campuses was before the Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee on Monday afternoon.
The bill raises separation-of-powers issues, as Montana's constitution gives university regents sole jurisdiction to manage and regulate college campuses.
Monday's three gun bills are just a few on a slate of controversial gun bills that have unfolded on the national and local stage in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Both House Bill 304 and 459 have received the approval of the House, and Kerns said he believes they will likely receive the Senate's endorsement.
The committee didn't take immediate action on House Bill 304 or 459.