HELENA (AP) — The board that oversees Montana's university system voted unanimously Wednesday to file a lawsuit against the state seeking a ruling over whether the state Legislature or the Board of Regents has the constitutional authority to regulate the possession of guns on campuses.

The vote directed the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education to file a legal challenge to House Bill 102, which, in part, would allow students and staff who meet safety certifications to carry concealed firearms without a permit on campuses starting June 1.

"While the board respects the role of its partners in the legislature, the board has determined it must seek clarity through the courts on whether HB102 encroaches upon the board's authority to properly and independently administer the Montana university system," the board said in a statement.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Seth Berglee of Joliet, issued a statement saying that it is "unfortunate that the Board of Regents has chosen to sue to block HB102 because they think their authority is so absolute that they can deny a student's constitutionally protected rights."

The overwhelming majority of people who commented on the board's plan to implement the new law asked the board to instead file a lawsuit to seek a ruling on whether the Legislature overstepped the regents' authority to manage the campuses. Opponents were also concerned about a precedent being set that would allow the Legislature to interfere with campus management.

Montana's Constitution states that the regents have the full power, responsibility and authority to supervise, coordinate, manage and control the Montana university system.

"Inherent within that is the obligation to provide for and protect the health, safety and welfare of university students, faculty and staff as well as visitors to the campus," Mae Nan Robinson Ellingson, a delegate to Montana's 1972 Constitutional Convention, told the board Wednesday. "HB102, applied to the Montana university system, encroaches on that power."

The Legislature "also sought your acquiescence on this power grab by granting you the right to impose regulations implementing House Bill 102 on campus," Ellingson added. "That is not the legislature's to give. The authority for you to impose regulations comes directly from the constitution. This is a critical principle and it goes far beyond guns on campuses."

Supporters of the new law questioned whether the Board of Regents could infringe upon the right to bear arms guaranteed in the state and federal constitutions and prevent students from carrying guns for self-defense purposes.

Brian Cayko, a Great Falls College instructor who said he was expressing his personal opinion, argued that the state constitution gave regents the authority to preserve academic control within the university system, but did not give them the authority to violate the constitutional rights of citizens.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 said the Second Amendment right to bear arms in the U.S. Constitution isn't unlimited.

"It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose," the court wrote at the time.

The court also noted its ruling, which overturned a prohibition on gun possession in the District of Columbia, should not be taken to cast doubt on "laws forbidding the carrying firearms in sensitive places, such as schools and government buildings."

Ellingson said she realized it's not easy to challenge state lawmakers because "they clearly control the purse strings and they have seemingly used that power to pre-empt you from challenging HB102," she said.

The Legislature appropriated $1 million for the university system to implement the campus carry law, but that funding goes away if the regents challenge the law. Republicans said the campuses would not need the money if they did not implement the law.

"I worked in good faith with the higher education system during the legislative session and included their input and requests into the bill to make it work for them," Berglee, the bill's sponsor, said. "They're now suing instead of implementing the bill we negotiated. I think this will unfortunately have a chilling effect on their relationship with the legislature in the future."

Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian, who leads the administrative unit of the university system, said his office will quickly put together a plan to challenge the law as it applies to the campuses.