Montana gun owners are facing a tough fight to protect and strengthen that state’s preemption statute as big-money gun prohibition lobbying groups are pitching in to prevent passage of a legislative referendum that would fix loopholes in the law and prevent local governments from adopting their own restrictive gun control ordinances.
Known as LR-130, the referendum would revise the current law to “prevent a patchwork of restrictions by local governments.” Preemption laws were passed in several states as far back as 35 years ago when Washington State adopted its law. That major reform created uniformity in gun laws from one end of the state to the other. Local anti-gun municipal governments despise the law, which was used to strike down an attempted parks prohibition in Seattle several years ago. Gun control groups in that state have been trying to erode the law ever since.
But now one Seattle-based gun prohibition lobbying group, the billionaire-backed Alliance for Gun Responsibility, has been lending its efforts to opponents of LR-130, according to campaign finance reports posted online by the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices (MCPP). So far, the value of this “in kind” service is $5,400, according to MCPP.
Also joining the battle is anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety, based in New York City. As of Sept. 24, they have provided more than $97,000 worth of “in kind” services to the campaign.
The story is getting national exposure at AmmoLand.com.
According to Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association (MTSSA), “LR-130 (would) no longer allow local government to regulate possession of firearms because it is already regulated by state and federal law. They don’t need that authority because they have already shown they will abuse that authority.”
MTSSA is a statewide organization and it is sounding the alarm bell in an effort to get every gun owner in the state—and there are lots of them—to vote Nov. 3 and overwhelmingly pass the measure. The state has a rich history of gun ownership, but this battle demonstrates what activists call an “obsession” by anti-gunners to spread their restrictive philosophy to every state.
But is there a “gun problem” in Big Sky Country? Not according to the latest FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2019, which was just released last week. Last year, according to FBI data, there were 27 murders in the entire state, which is one fewer than in the city of Seattle last year. Of those slayings, 16 involved firearms. Eleven were committed with handguns, and one each are known to have involved a rifle or shotgun. In three other cases, the gun was not identified.
Here is the ballot language for LR-130:
LEGISLATIVE REFERENDUM NO. 130
AN ACT REFERRED BY THE LEGISLATURE
AN ACT REVISING FIREARMS LAWS TO SECURE THE RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS AND TO PREVENT A PATCHWORK OF RESTRICTIONS BY LOCAL GOVERNMENTS ACROSS THE STATE AND PROVIDING THAT LOCAL GOVERNMENTS MAY NOT REGULATE THE CARRYING OF CONCEALED WEAPONS; PROVIDING THAT THE PROPOSED ACT BE SUBMITTED TO THE QUALIFIED ELECTORS OF MONTANA; AMENDING SECTIONS 7-1-111 AND 45-8-351, MCA; AND PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE.
The 2019 Legislature submitted this proposal for a vote. LR-130 generally restricts a county, city, town, consolidated local government, or other local government unit’s authority to regulate the carrying of firearms. It removes a local government unit’s power to regulate the carrying of permitted concealed weapons or to restrict the carrying of unconcealed firearms except in publicly owned and occupied buildings under the local government unit’s jurisdiction. It repeals a local government unit’s authority to prevent or suppress the possession of firearms by convicted felons, adjudicated mental incompetents, illegal aliens, and minors. Federal and other state firearm restrictions would remain unchanged, including for these individuals. Local firearm ordinances that conflict with LR-130 could not be enforced.
 YES on Legislative Referendum LR-130
 NO on Legislative Referendum LR-13
What Montana gun owners may lack in money to fight the big-bucks opposition, which includes the Montana Federation of Public Employees, they make up for with ingenuity.
Marbut is circulating a two-sided handout sheet that can be reproduced by activists all over the state, from Libby to Glendive.
On one side of the handout is this message:
“LR-130 To Preserve the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Montana
“What’s LR-130 all about? Current state law allows some regulation of firearms by local governments. LR-130 changes existing law to reduce local government authority to regulate firearms. Prevents local governments from banning guns by identifying common areas, such as streets, sidewalks, and open spaces as “parks”. Prevents local governments from banning guns by defining as a “public assembly” whenever two or more people come together. Removes authority for local government to regulate guns for people already regulated under federal law – aliens, minors, felons, and those adjudicated as mentally incompetent.”
On the flip side, proponents of preemption reform offer this message:
“Lies about LR-130
“Opponents will tell outrageous lies about LR-130, attempting to frighten people into voting against it, lies such as: LR-130 will permit crazy people to kill children in schools. LIE! Firearms in schools are restricted by a different law that is NOT affected by LR-130. LR-130 will cause shootouts in parks where children will be injured. LIE! This is just a different version of the prediction made in 1991 if a shall-issue concealed weapon permit law were passed. Then, opponents claimed that allowing law-abiding citizens to obtain CWPs would result in “rivers of blood flowing in the streets.” Never happened. Local governments need local control. Wrong! Local governments are already controlled by the most voluminous section of Montana laws, and properly so. We don’t allow local governments to enforce a death penalty for jaywalking, and a great deal more. LR-130 is just the adults supervising the children.”
In a telephone conversation with Liberty Park Press, Marbut acknowledged gun owners have a fight on their hands. However, not only will LR-130 bring them to the polls, so, too, will the race for U.S. Senate in which term-limited Democrat Gov. Steve Bullock is challenging Republican incumbent Sen. Steve Daines. Bullock’s campaign acknowledges it is trying to flip the Senate, which would be bad news to gun owners.
The gubernatorial election is also Nov. 3, with Democrat Lt. Governor Mike Cooney hoping to step up into the governor’s office. He is opposed by Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte.
Those races could make the difference on several levels, as Republicans battle to retain control of the U.S. Senate, and try to win the governor’s office.