HELENA, Mont. – The Montana chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety, released the following response after the House voted to advance HB 325 and HB 357, which would prevent local governments from passing public safety measures to keep communities safe. Governor Bulluck can choose to veto HB 325, but HB 357 will create a ballot measure and the people of Montana will vote to accept or reject this proposal.
“Our lawmakers let us all down today by deciding to strip local governments of their ability to protect our communities,” said Kiely Lammers, volunteer leader with the Montana chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “We urge Governor Bullock to veto this bill so that local officials can continue to decide what’s best for the safety of our communities, and we urge Montana voters to reject this proposal if it appears on their ballots.”
The proposed legislation would strip local governments of their authority to prevent people from carrying guns at public demonstrations and prevent any regulation around guns in parks, including at events such as public rallies, even if there is a public safety risk. Currently, local governments have the authority to regulate carry of firearms in public places, including a public assembly or a park. Research indicates that open carry can increase the likelihood of violence.
In 2016, the Missoula City Council passed an ordinance that requires criminal background checks on all gun sales (with certain limited exceptions). Although federal law requires licensed gun dealers to conduct criminal background checks on gun sales, a loophole exists that allows unlicensed sales, including sales online and at gun shows, to take place without background checks. Missoula passed an ordinance closing this loophole within city limits, and the ordinance was upheld by the Montana District Court this past October. HB 325 is a clear attempt to undo this court decision and prevent other cities from passing common-sense measures that can help keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.
HB 325 and HB 357 would also pave the way for more armed teachers in Montana. Under current law, guns are generally prohibited in Montana’s K-12 schools, but the law permits school districts to authorize certain individuals to carry firearms in school. Some school districts have already taken advantage of this provision in dangerous ways — allowing teachers to carry guns in schools and putting students in danger. The current law also allows for local governments to regulate school district decisions, providing a crucial check on these districts. This legislation would remove that authority and eliminate any power to regulate an unsafe decision.