The Montana chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety, released the following statement after the Montana Senate passed HB 258, a bill which would prohibit Montana state and local law enforcement from assisting in the enforcement of federal public safety laws. The bill now moves to Governor Gianforte’s desk.
“In the past few weeks, we have seen devastating gun violence in our country,” said Lone Young, a volunteer with the Montana chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Montana lawmakers should wake up and start prioritizing our safety over dangerous legislation that would only serve to exacerbate our existing gun violence crisis, which kills over 200 people every year in Montana.”
The bill was tabled by the House Judiciary committee on Feb. 12 after public opposition, but the committee took it back up at the urging of the gun lobby and the bill was voted out of the House shortly after.
Nullifying federal law is unconstitutional and provisions in the bill would prevent law enforcement officers from protecting their communities from gun violence and encourage extremists to defy federal gun laws, including laws that keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
Law enforcement officers are fighting on the frontlines of both COVID-19 and the gun violence public health crises and need lawmakers’ help more than ever. With over 200 gun deaths per year, Montanans need proven gun safety laws to end this public health crisis, but under a nullification law, Montana law enforcement officers would be discouraged from assisting federal authorities in making sure people who are a threat to themselves and others don’t have access to a firearm.
Montana has the eighth highest rate of gun deaths in the country and 85 percent of these deaths are gun suicides. In fact, Montana’s gun suicide rate is more than two times that of the national gun suicide rate. The high rate of gun violence in the state also costs $1.4 billion each year, of which $42.3 million is paid by taxpayers. Gun safety legislation such as HB 581, which would have required firearms to be securely stored, have been proven to reduce gun suicides — yet it was tabled by lawmakers after just one hearing.