The Montana chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots networks, released the following statement after Governor Gregory Gianforte signed HB 258, a bill which would prohibit Montana state and local law enforcement from assisting in the enforcement of any new federal public safety laws.
“Today, Governor Gianforte didn’t keep his promise to represent and protect his constituents,” said Roxane Weikel, a volunteer with the Montana chapter of Moms Demand Action. “We know what can prevent the gun suicides that plague our state, but once again our lawmakers tabled gun safety legislation after just one hearing. Montana has some of the weakest gun laws in the country, and this legislation only makes this worse.”
This week, nine gun violence survivors penned an open letter to Gov. Gianforte and urged him to veto this dangerous legislation. The bill was originally 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.
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 have dangerous histories 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.