Montana Voters Will Decide On Limiting Local Government’s Ability to Pass Gun Control Via Referendum
Montana voters will decide on Election Day in November if local governments will be allowed to micromanage people’s right to bear arms.
Legislative Referendum 130 asks Montanan voters to remove government’s ability to regulate concealed carry and open carry of firearms, with the exception of public buildings within a local government’s jurisdiction.
The Montana legislature sent this question for voters to decide after Democrat Governor Steve Bullock vetoed a bill last session that featured the same provisions. In the previous case, the same policy would have been accomplished, albeit through traditional legislative means as opposed to a ballot initiative.
At the time of Bullock’s veto, the governor of Montana asserted that the state’s current gun policies safeguard “our basic right to keep and bear arms” and trusted local governments to determine “whether the mentally ill may bring guns into schools, or whether a local government can permit concealed weapons.”
Gun control has been a controversial issue in Montana over the past five years.
In 2016, the city of Missoula passed an ordinance that would have ordered all gun sales taking place within city limits, which included private sales, to be covered under background checks. This is a local version of universal background check policies that have become the norm in various blue states across the nation.
After a number of modifications to the ordinance and legal battles, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the ordinance was unconstitutional in 2019.
Second Amendment advocates were motivated to push for the aforementioned ballot initiative after this legal drama subsided. For them, Missoula’s ordinance would have potentially led to a situation where the state would have a patchwork of gun control restrictions across the state.
Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, was one of the main activists pushing the ballot initiative forward.
He pointed to the fact that Montana already has a preemption law on the books, which prohibits local governments from regulating guns.
“All local governments are creatures of the state,” Marbut commented. “LR-130 reinforces the restriction in the Montana Constitution on our right to keep and bear arms.”
State Representative Matt Regier sponsored the original bill. He believes that Montanans will greenlight the initiative at the ballot box, due to how it would simplify concealed carry regulations across the state and avoid confusion.
Regier believes that the main purpose of the ballot initiative is to provide uniform regulations across the state for lawful concealed carry permit holders.
“I myself am a concealed carry permit holder, and we want to follow the law,” he said. “If every city and every county has a different ordinance, it would be impossible to even drive across the state,” Regier stated.
Montana is one of the more pro-gun states in the country. Guns & Ammo magazine rewarded Montana a 9th place spot for its 2019 rankings for the most gun-friendly states in the nation.