Monatana – -(AmmoLand.com)- HB 325 has been transmitted to Governor Bullock for his consideration. This will be interesting!
You will remember that HB 325 is MSSA's “fix Missoula” bill, to amend the Montana “preemption law” at 45-8-351 to prevent ongoing abuse of the law that limits all local government's power to regulate firearms – to prevent a patchwork of gun control laws across Montana. You will also remember that HB 357 passed too, is identical to HB 325, and will put the same measure on the ballot for a vote if Bullock vetoes HB 325.
So, what can and will Bullock do? That's where it gets interesting to ponder, but the answer is not clear.
The possible options are that Bullock could sign HB 325 into law, he could let it sit in his in-basket for ten days and it would become law without his signature, he could veto the bill, or he could do an “amendatory veto” of HB 325 whereby he recommends amendments and sends it back to the Legislature for approval.
A potential amendatorty veto was made more difficult for Bullock when HB 325 was held up and not sent to the Governor until after the Legislature had adjourned. With the Legislature gone, it will be more difficult for Bullock to obtain any legislative vote in agreement with any amendments might suggest, and nearly impossible for him to arrange some complicated trading involving HB 325 and other bills. Not impossible; just more difficult.
We know that Bullock has vetoed a bunch of the pro-gun bills MSSA has gotten through the Legislature during his seven years in office (e.g., permitless carry, campus carry, and etc.) However, the planets are shifting into different and more difficult alignment for Bullock.
Bullock's chief personality driver is his political ambition. Political philosophy is clearly secondary for Bullock. He is term-limited as Governor and is finishing out the last term in which he can occupy the governor's office. When he is soon finished being governor, he will not be done with politics. So, what's next for Bullock?
We've seen that Bullock is fishing for some spot in a presidential lineup for 2020. That's probably a long shot since he's from “flyover country” and a state with few votes. The smart people on the national scene would rather have a candidate to run against Trump in 2020 from a populous state such as New York or California. Bullock knows this. He's not stupid. Yes, he did form an “exploratory committee” for the 2020 presidential ticket (as have half the Ds in the country, it seems).
Insiders in Helena say this exploratory committee was only formed to allow Bullock to raise funds nationally for a more likely race to unseat Steve Daines from his Montana seat in the US Senate, also up for reelection in 2020. Democrats on the national scene would dearly like to take back control of the U.S. Senate, and the seat Senator Daines occupies from Montana will be selected for a possible turnover, and a relatively cheap seat to buy. For that, Democrats need a viable candidate. One suspects Bullock will be told by national Democrats to forget stirring the already murky water of aspirations for a presidential ticket, and to stay home and use his popularity to make a credible run at Daines's seat.
How does MSSA's Fix Missoula Bill HB 325 fit into this picture?
If Bullock were to run against Daines, one very large political liability he'd have to overcome would be the solid anti-gun record he's earned and the energized antipathy of Montana gun owners. It would be ever so helpful for him to have some pro-gun trophy mounted on his campaign office wall that he could crow about during the campaign.
What sort of pro-gun trophy is available for mounting, right now? Only HB 325. That's it. Yes, Bullock signed the bill removing the requirement that CWP-holders notify sheriffs when changing counties. But, that's political chicken feed with little political octane. Ditto with the bill to prevent local governments from regulating knives, and also the bill to make an SSN optional on a CWP application. There's just not enough political traction in those. So, it's HB 325 or nothing.
And, there's more. If Bullock vetoes HB 325 then the same thing will be on the ballot in 2020 because of HB 357 (I call it HB 357 Magnum, heh heh). That will draw gun owners to the polls, an effect that could set up a political Little Big Horn for Bullock. Bullock knows this and REALLY would like to avoid that possible political landmine.
Since Bullock's political philosophy takes a back seat to his political ambition, there's reason to argue that Bullock is highly motivated to sign HB 325. Meanwhile, Bullock will probably be spending half of every day on the phone with his east coast contacts, trying to get a definitive read on his chances for a presidential something. For that, he'd need maximum anti-gun creds.
Unfortunately for Bullock, the national picture won't clarify by the time he must make a final decision about HB 325. Tsk, tsk. So, he will have to flip the political coin, with serious potential political downside either way. He could end up out on the street in the steep descent ending his personal political trajectory.
The NRA has sent out an alert urging members to ask Bullock to sign HB 325. Frankly, MSSA thinks it will be highly entertaining to sit on the sidelines and watch the political gyrations and stress. This will be a fine political half-time show, with amplifiers, fireworks, and dancing girls. Heat up some popcorn, pop a brew, sit back and watch Governor Bullock squirm in the uncomfortable political bed he has made for himself.
Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
About Montana Shooting Sports Association:
Montana Shooting Sports Association ( MSSA ) is the primary political advocate for Montana gun owners.