Montana has had a long-running battle over gun control at the local level. The city of Missoula enacted a universal background check law in 2016 that was eventually struck down by the state supreme court last year. In an effort to make it even more clear that local governments can’t enact their own restrictions, the state legislature sent Democratic Governor Steve Bullock a bill that would have preempted local restrictions on concealed carry.
He promptly vetoed it.
As Bullock wrote at the time . . .
Montana law already prohibits cities and towns from adopting regulations that restrict “the right to keep or bear arms.” Section 7-1-111, MCA. But Montana, like other American jurisdictions throughout our country’s history-and the English jurisdictions that preceded them-has long allowed these same cities and towns to adopt regulations around concealed weapons and the presence of weapons in certain public spaces. …
Though the distinction between the right to bear arms and the desire to conceal them remains in the Constitution, HB 325 would strike it from Montana’s local government statutes. The bill would also prevent local governments from adopting regulations around weapons in parks and schools. Bizarrely, the bill even bars local governments from regulations that would facilitate existing prohibitions on gun ownership by convicted felons and the mentally ill.
That didn’t satisfy the Republican-controlled legislature, which promptly set to work brewing up new bills to put the question of local restrictions on concealed carry to the voters.
From the Great Falls Tribune:
Legislative Referendum 130 asks voters to remove local governments’ power to regulate the carrying of concealed firearms – or to restrict the open carry of firearms – except in public buildings within a government’s jurisdiction.
The measure, if approved, also would repeal local government’s authority to prevent the possession of firearms by convicted felons, minors, undocumented immigrants and or people judged to be mentally incompetent. The measure doesn’t affect other federal or state firearms restrictions about such possession.
Groups like the Montana League of Cities and Towns and the Montana School Boards Association are fighting the measure, but the state supreme court ruled it will appear on the November ballot, so voters will have the final say.
[T]he sponsor of the stricken Missoula ordinance, Missoula City Council President Bryan von Lossberg, said LR-130 would limit local officials’ power to serve their communities.
“LR-130 is an attack on freedom,” von Lossberg said. “My job as a local official is to act in the interest of the public safety, well-being and welfare of my constituents. This initiative makes that job much harder to do because it eviscerates local control.”