Currently, Governor Gianforte has dangerous legislation to nullify federal gun safety laws on his desk but there is still time for him to veto this legislation and promote gun safety in Montana. Gun violence prevention is more important than ever this year as the pandemic continues to exacerbate gun violence, and after a year of increased gun sales, continued police violence, increased risk of suicide and domestic violence, and an increase in city gun violence.
On average, over 200 people are shot and killed with a gun every year — giving Montana the eighth highest rate of gun deaths in the country. The state also has the second highest rate of gun suicides in the country, which accounts for nearly 85 % of gun deaths in the state. Montana’s gun suicide rate is more than two times that of the national gun suicide rate.
Three Things Governor Gianforte Should Do to Promote Gun Safety:
- Veto dangerous legislation: Right now, Gov. Gianforte has legislation on his desk to roll back gun laws, including a bill to nullify federal gun safety laws — which could increase the risk of gun violence. Nullification legislation 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. This session, a similar bill Wyoming, but was ultimately defeated and deemed too extreme.
- Promote the importance of securely storing firearms: With so many children and teens still at home — and away from friends and extended family — due to coronavirus, the risk of gun suicides and unintentional shootings is elevated. In fact, research shows there were 657 unintentional gun deaths in 2020 compared to 482 in 2019—a 36 percent increase. Governor Gianforte should be promoting educational programs, like Be SMART, about how securely storing firearms saves lives. This session, lawmakers proposed HB 581 which would have required firearms to be securely stored – a proven way to reduce gun suicides – but it was tabled after just one hearing.
- Support local violence intervention groups: Local violence intervention groups doing work to support domestic violence services is critical during this time. Data from police calls, crime reports, and domestic violence hotlines found an eight percent increase in domestic violence during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and related stay-at-home orders. Governor Giafornte can help support these groups and raise awareness about their services.
Additional information on gun violence in Montana is available here, and Everytown’s Gun Law Navigator — which shows how Montana’s gun laws compare to those of other states — is available here. To speak with Montana Moms Demand Action volunteers, please do not hesitate to reach out.