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Montana Ballot Initiative Challenges Local Power on Concealed Carry

By: Teresa Mull

Montana voters taking to the polls this fall will have the power to decide if local ordinances can control citizens’ rights to carry firearms concealed.

“Legislative Referendum 130 asks voters to remove local governments’ power to regulate the carrying of concealed firearms – or to restrict the open carry of firearms – except in public buildings within a government’s jurisdiction,” reports the Great Falls Tribune.

LR-130 is the ballot initiative form of a bill Rep. Matt Regier introduced during the last legislative session, and which Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed. Bullock declared at the time:

Montana law already prohibits cities and towns from adopting regulations that restrict “the right to keep or bear arms.” Section 7-1-111, MCA. But Montana, like other American jurisdictions throughout our country’s history-and the English jurisdictions that preceded them-has long allowed these same cities and towns to adopt regulations around concealed weapons and the presence of weapons in certain public spaces. …
Though the distinction between the right to bear arms and the desire to conceal them remains in the Constitution, HB 325 would strike it from Montana’s local government statutes. The bill would also prevent local governments from adopting regulations around weapons in parks and schools. Bizarrely, the bill even bars local governments from regulations that would facilitate existing prohibitions on gun ownership by convicted felons and the mentally ill.

Regier pointed out, according to the Tribune, that should the referendum pass, it would “lessen confusion on concealed carry regulations across the state.”

The Montana School Boards Association and the Montana League of Cities and Towns are leading opponents to LR-130, while the Montana Shooting Sports Association, with some help from the NRA, is a strong supporter.

Montana’s battle between state and local control of gun issues is a storied one. Last year, the Montana Supreme Court ruled a Missoula city ordinance requiring background checks on all gun sales to be unconstitutional.

Teresa Mull (teresa@gunpowdermagazine.com) is editor of Gunpowder Magazine.

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