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MT Ballot Measure Would Eliminate Local Gun Regulation Authority

Montana lawmakers have referred a measure to voters that would mean only the state could devise gun regulations. (md3d/Adobe Stock)
Montana lawmakers have referred a measure to voters that would mean only the state could devise gun regulations. (md3d/Adobe Stock)
February 6, 2020

HELENA, Mont. -- After a contentious battle last year, voters will get to decide in November whether local Montana communities can write their own gun regulations.

The pre-emption measure would remove local governments' authority to regulate firearms.

It was passed and referred to voters last year by the Montana Legislature after Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed a similar bill.

It's also in response to a Missoula city ordinance requiring background checks for gun sales.

That measure was later repealed by the state Supreme Court, and Kelly Lynch, deputy director/general counsel of the Montana League of Cities and Towns, wonders what issue this referendum is trying to fix.

"There are some protections for folks in our local communities that I think has never been called into question," she points out. "Do we want folks to be able to carry on school property? Do we want folks to be able to carry in the courtroom? Do we want folks to be able to carry at public assemblies?"

The Montana League of Cities and Towns was among a half-dozen groups to sue the state over what plaintiffs say is confusing language in the referendum, noting it fails to mention local governments will not be able to regulate firearms in places such as schools.

The state Supreme Court has ruled to keep the language as it was when the Legislature passed it.

Authors of the bill say the purpose is to prevent a patchwork of laws across the state. But Lynch says localities have been passing regulations since Montana became a state.

"And that's been happening over the last 130 years," she states. "So we're really worried about what is going to be the end result of these changes in the law, and there's a lot of confusion among everyone about this referendum says and what will be the end result."

Lynch maintains the language of the measure is so confusing that even if it passes, it will cost the state a lot of money in litigation to determine what the measure actually does.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT