U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- A legislative referendum aimed at strengthening Montana’s preemption law that would prevent local governments from creating a patchwork of local gun control laws is drawing strong opposition from two out-of-state billionaire-backed gun prohibition lobbying groups, one based in New York and the other in Seattle.
Anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety in New York City had, as of Sept. 24, reported more than $97,000 of “in-kind” (not cash, but related services) contributions to an effort to defeat LR-130, while the Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility has provided $5,400 in services, according to reports posted by the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices (MCPP).
Montana gun owners may wonder why all the interest in their state’s law from gun control groups located at opposite ends of the country. Simply put, state preemption laws are a primary target of the gun prohibition movement because they prevent local governments from adopting confusing, and often conflicting, gun control ordinances that can ensnare firearms owners in any state where such checkerboard controls are allowed.
Meanwhile, the Montana Federation of Public Employees are also heavily involved in the opposition effort as are the Montana Human Rights Network and Montana League of Cities and Towns, according to MCPP’s campaign electronic reporting system.
Exactly what is LR-130? According to Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association (MTSSA) LR-130 is a legislative referendum to the voters that would prevent local governments from adopting restrictive local gun control laws, such as banning firearms. It also “removes authority of local government to regulate guns for people already regulated under federal law.”
In a telephone conversation with Ammoland, Marbut said the state’s preemption law says cities and counties cannot regulate firearms, but there are presently some exceptions. Passage of LR-130 would change that.
“LR-130 would no longer allow local governments to regulate possession of firearms (by prohibited persons) because (that) is already regulated by state and federal law,” he said. “They don’t need that authority because they have already shown they will abuse that authority.”
For example, when the City of Missoula adopted an ordinance in 2016 requiring federal background checks on all firearms transfers within the city limits, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox took the city to court after offering an opinion that Montana cities are not allowed to adopt such regulations, as reported by Courthouse News. The case ultimately went to the Montana State Supreme Court, which slapped down the city. As noted by Marbut, in an explanation about the importance of LR-130, “Unfortunately, 15 local governments in Montana have enacted and enforce local gun control, most recently Missoula, despite the RKBA in the Montana Constitution and despite our existing preemption law at 45-8-351.”
Here is the official ballot language:
BALLOT LANGUAGE FOR LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 130 (LR-130)
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 130
AN ACT REFERRED BY THE LEGISLATURE
AN ACT REVISING FIREARMS LAWS TO SECURE THE RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS AND TO PREVENT A PATCHWORK OF RESTRICTIONS BY LOCAL GOVERNMENTS ACROSS THE STATE AND PROVIDING THAT LOCAL GOVERNMENTS MAY NOT REGULATE THE CARRYING OF CONCEALED WEAPONS; PROVIDING THAT THE PROPOSED ACT BE SUBMITTED TO THE QUALIFIED ELECTORS OF MONTANA; AMENDING SECTIONS 7-1-111 AND 45-8-351, MCA; AND PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE.
The 2019 Legislature submitted this proposal for a vote. LR-130 generally restricts a county, city, town, consolidated local government, or other local government unit’s authority to regulate the carrying of firearms. It removes a local government unit’s power to regulate the carrying of permitted concealed weapons or to restrict the carrying of unconcealed firearms except in publicly owned and occupied buildings under the local government unit’s jurisdiction. It repeals a local government unit’s authority to prevent or suppress the possession of firearms by convicted felons, adjudicated mental incompetents, illegal aliens, and minors. Federal and other state firearm restrictions would remain unchanged, including for these individuals. Local firearm ordinances that conflict with LR-130 could not be enforced.
 YES on Legislative Referendum LR-130
 NO on Legislative Referendum LR-13
Opponents of the measure argue it will take away the ability of local residents to decide now to keep their communities safe. It’s the same argument gun control groups have made against state preemption laws elsewhere. In states, such as Washington, where preemption has been on the books since 1983 (and amended in 1985), efforts to undo the law are described as attempts to return local control.
However, MTSSA and other proponents base their arguments on state constitutional grounds.
“In the Montana Constitution,” they explain in a support statement, “the people reserved for themselves the right to keep and bear arms. This was intended to prevent government entities from restricting that liberty. The Montana “preemption law” was enacted by the Legislature to implement our constitutional protection by preventing local governments from enforcing local firearm restrictions.
“Some local governments in Montana have exploited alleged loopholes in the preemption law,” the statement continues, “loopholes that would ultimately allow any and all firearms restrictions imposed by cities and counties in Montana. LR-130 closes those loopholes.
“LR-130 was put on the 2020 ballot by a majority vote of the Legislature, to amend Montana laws in order to prevent local governments from exploiting any possible loopholes in existing law that may allow them to enforce local gun control.”
Marbut said MTSSA has members in every community of the state, which extends from the northern prairie grass and croplands to the Rocky Mountains. It is a vast state, where distances aren’t always measured in miles, but in travel time.
To fight the big money gun prohibitionists, MTSSA has prepared a two-sided handout, available at “progunleaders.org,” that may be printed by local activists and circulated to every voter in the state. On one side, this is the pro-LR-130 language:
“LR-130 To Preserve the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Montana
“What’s LR-130 all about? Current state law allows some regulation of firearms by local governments. LR-130 changes existing law to reduce local government authority to regulate firearms. Prevents local governments from banning guns by identifying common areas, such as streets, sidewalks, and open spaces as “parks”. Prevents local governments from banning guns by defining as a “public assembly” whenever two or more people come together. Removes authority for local government to regulate guns for people already regulated under federal law – aliens, minors, felons, and those adjudicated as mentally incompetent.”
This is the message that appears on the flip side:
“Lies about LR-130
“Opponents will tell outrageous lies about LR-130, attempting to frighten people into voting against it, lies such as: LR-130 will permit crazy people to kill children in schools. LIE! Firearms in schools are restricted by a different law that is NOT affected by LR-130. LR-130 will cause shootouts in parks where children will be injured. LIE! This is just a different version of the prediction made in 1991 if a shall-issue concealed weapon permit law were passed. Then, opponents claimed that allowing law-abiding citizens to obtain CWPs would result in “rivers of blood flowing in the streets.” Never happened. Local governments need local control. Wrong! Local governments are already controlled by the most voluminous section of Montana laws, and properly so. We don’t allow local governments to enforce a death penalty for jaywalking, and a great deal more. LR-130 is just the adults supervising the children.”
Marbut indicated the importance of gun owner voting next month cannot be over-stated. Montana gun owners need to vote.
As ancient Greek statesman and orator Pericles once noted, “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”
That now appears to be the case in Big Sky Country, once thought to be immune to gun control activism.
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