HELENA— A group of Helena students has helped put together a bill this legislative session, that they hope will help address gun safety in Montana.
After the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida last year, local high school students formed Helena Youth Against Gun Violence.
“I turned the grief that I was feeling for those students and families at Parkland, and I turned it into fuel,” says Amanda Penley of Helena Youth Against Gun Violence. “I got involved.”
Amanda Penley and other members of the group soon began looking into the possibility of creating legislation to address their concerns about gun safety.
“To effect real change, we needed some kind of policy in place,” Penley added.
They contacted local lawmakers, who gave them advice on the legislative process. Representative Moffie Funk, a Helena Democrat connected them with a bill drafter. Eventually, their ideas became House Bill 477.
The bill would create a fine of up to a thousand dollars if someone leaves a gun unsecured, a child fires it, and it causes death or serious injury to the child or another person.
The bill would also require the Montana Office of Public Instruction to develop policies for firearms safety education.
“Really it’s about kids when you look at it, and just making sure that, yes, in Montana, we own firearms and we’re proud of that, and that’s great,” Penley said, “but also, we need to be proud of the fact that we store them responsibly, and we keep our children safe.”
Funk has agreed to sponsor House Bill 477.
Penley said they also made a point of talking to Republicans about their ideas.They added the section on education in response to that input.
Regardless of what happens with House Bill 477, Penley says this experience has been valuable.
“Getting young people involved in politics is huge, and I think it’s really important, and I have learned so much throughout this process.”
House Bill 4-77 has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.
Penley expects it will receive a hearing sometime in mid-March.
Story by Jonathon Ambarian, MTN News