Advisory – videorecording police

Dear MSSA Friends,

I am seeing more reports of people being arrested and charged with various crimes (e.g., wiretapping, obstruction, etc.) for videorecording police in public places, reports from states other than Montana.

So, I sent an email to a contact at the Montana Department of Justice and asked what advice MT DoJ gives to police officers and agencies about video recording (or audio recording, I suppose) police in public places in Montana.  Here is the reply I received:

Here is a little bit on how we train law enforcement on the issue you asked about in your email.  The Montana Law Enforcement Academy trains on this issue quite a bit.  Students are told very sternly that citizens have the right to photograph and video tape officers and to not interfere with these types of acts.  The exception is if the person videotaping is in such close proximately to the event that it would impede the officers efforts or create a hazard or risk to the situation.  Even in those instance officers are trained to explain to the person why this is impeding or interfering and ask them to move to another location so as to not create a hazard.

So just to clarify, the act of videoing an incident alone does not mean a person would be arrested. To rise to a level of obstruction of justice, the person videoing must be actually interfering with the investigation or arrest. So videoing is not on illegal on its face or even a gray area.

Interesting!  Good to know.

Generally, the courts reviewing these situations in other states have held that when police are doing their public job in public places they have no expectation of privacy.

Best wishes,

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana

Report – MSSA Annual Meeting

Dear MSSA Friends,

At the Annual Meeting yesterday in Helena, MSSA re-elected All existing officers and three members of the Board of Directors whose terms were expiring.  In addition, a vacant position on the MSSA Board was filled with the election of Keith VanSetten to the Board.  Keith is from Choteau and is Sheriff of Teton County.  We welcome Keith to the Board.

MSSA also finalized its legislative agenda for the 2015 Montana Legislative Session.  In order of priority, here are the issues the MSSA Board and members selected for the MSSA legislative agenda for next session:

1.  Encourage the manufacture of ammunition components in Montana.  This will be MSSA’s flagship bill for the session.

2.  Prohibit enforcement of any new federal gun control laws by state and local government employees.

3.  Safe Travel to Work.  Allow for “Safe Travel to Work” by preventing employers from firing employees who have a firearm locked in the employee’s private vehicle in the employer’s parking lot.

4.  Prohibited Places.  Address the non sequitur of the “prohibited places” at 45-8-328 where anyone may carry a firearm openly but CWP-holders may not exercise their permits.

5.  Campus Carry.  Allow campus carry by determining that campus authorities have no power to suspend, amend or abolish the Montana Constitution and the right to keep and bear arms that the people have secured there to prevent interference by governmental entities.

6.  Sheriffs First.  Insure cooperation from federal law enforcement officers by requiring that they obtain written permission from the elected county sheriff before conducting an arrest, search or seizure in Montana.

7.  Sound Suppressors for Hunting.  Remove the prohibition for use of suppressors for hunting regulated game in Montana.

8.  Permitless carry.  Make the law inside cities the same as it has been outside cities for 23 years by allowing concealed carry inside cities without a permit.

9.  Guns at School.  Clarify that school boards have full discretion over discipline applied to students who deliberately or inadvertently bring a firearm to school.

10.  Bankruptcy and Firearms.  Allow up to $5,000 of firearms, archery equipment and ammunition that a person has owned for a year or more to be exempt from claims under bankruptcy.

11.  Home Guard.  Expand upon existing laws establishing the Montana Home Guard to specify organization, mission, duties, responsibilities and control.

As MSSA ramps up towards the 2015 Legislative Session, MSSA needs to expand its membership and also increase the numbers of people we reach on this email list.  Please join MSSA if you’re not already a member.  Go to:

Please also forward this email to other Montanans and encourage them to send an email to MSSA asking to be put on the MSSA email list.

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana

Another run on ammo – maybe; maybe not

Dear MSSA Friends,

I just got word that because of strained international relations Russia has suspended all exports of ammo to the U.S.  See:

Is this true?  I don’t know.  I don’t have the means to confirm it or not.

However, those who have depended on a steady supply of Russian-manufactured ammunition could be disappointed.  If this information is true, this development will put additional stress on the already-stressed ammo supply situation in the U.S.

Just FYI.

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana

It’s over – MSSA v. Holder

Dear MSSA Friends,

The US Supreme Court has declined to accept the State of Montana’s separate petition for review of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in our lawsuit to validate the principles of the Montana Firearms Freedom Act (MFFA), MSSA v. Holder.  We’re now at the end of this particular road.

Thanks ever so much to Missoula attorney Quentin Rhoades for being MSSA’s sympathetic and competent legal counsel throughout.  Thanks also to MSSA’s partner in this lawsuit, the Second Amendment Foundation.  And, thanks to the Montana legislators who believed enough in liberty and states’ rights to pass the MFFA.

Still, there’s more to be said about the effort.

The MFFA caught a sympathetic wave as the first legislation of its type in the US.  It was cloned and enacted in eight other states, and cloned and introduced in the legislatures of about 23 other states yet.  Clearly, a majority of the states of the US are operating under the same frustration with the run amok federal government as is Montana.  Further, the MFFA inspired a whole wave of other “freedom acts,” such as the light bulb freedom act, the whiskey freedom act, the tobacco freedom act, the healthcare freedom act, and others.  Inspired by the MFFA, the US is now alive with “nullification” efforts at the state level – state efforts telling the federal government to back off.

Also, because there are enacted or introduced FFAs in so many other states, there may well be parallel lawsuits occurring in other federal court circuits, putting pressure on the Supreme Court to rethink its rejection of the effort.

There is certainly good reason for the Supreme Court to step into this general controversy, if it has any hope to maintain respect for it’s historic-but-abandoned turf as any sort of check on the other federal branches.  See again my open letter to the Supreme Court urging the justices to accept MSSA v. Holder, at:

In a gentlemen’s agreement with the BATFE, and while our lawsuit was working, I steadfastly advised everyone to NOT make and sell the Montana-only firearms authorized by the MFFA.  I no longer take that position.  However, I DO now warn people that attempting to do what the MFFA authorizes may result in federal persecution (and prosecution).

Finally, this epic trip to the US Supreme Court, and the Court’s rejection of MSSA v. Holder, have finally persuaded me that it is fruitless to expect any part of the federal government to control the lust for centralized and tyrannical power that our federal government displays.  Further, and perhaps more important, it proves that it is improper to rely on the federal government, or any branch thereof, to be the judge of what powers the states have delegated to the federal government in the Constitution.  As the creator of the Constitution and the federal government, only the states may properly or practically do that.

That’s why I have proposed the concept of the Constitutional Settlements Commission (CSC), a way for the states to operate in unison to “just say no” to the federal government and its countless minions.  For a more thorough discussion of the CSC concept, see:

In closing, I must admit that my fervent hopes for a peaceful restoration of individual liberty and states’ rights have been dimmed by the Supreme Court and it’s rejection of MSSA v. Holder.  I wonder if the justices of the Supreme Court have noticed what’s going on in the Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand, and other places.

It’s been a great run.  Thanks for your interest and support.  While I remain totally committed to peaceful political efforts to restore liberty, the alternative is never off the table.  That’s exactly why we have reserved to ourselves the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

Best wishes,

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana

Reminder – MSSA Annual Meeting, 3/1, Helena – this coming Saturday

Dear MSSA Members and Friends,

Per MSSA Bylaws, the MSSA Annual Meeting is held each year in Helena on the first Saturday in March, this year on March 1st.

This meeting will be held in the meeting room (called the “Auditorium”) of the Montana Historical Society, just across the street from and to the east of the State Capitol Building.  The meeting will convene at 10 AM and we should be done by 4:00 to 4:30PM.  We will take a lunch break from Noon to 1:00PM.

We will conduct elections for officers and directors, have an annual report, establish MSSA’s 2015 legislative agenda, and conduct such other business as is proper.  In addition, I will invite candidates for the US Senate and US House to address the meeting briefly.

Best wishes,

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana

MSSA Annual Meeting, 3/1, Helena

Dear MSSA Members and Friends, Per MSSA Bylaws, the MSSA Annual Meeting is held each year in Helena on the first Saturday in March, this year on March 1st. This meeting will be held in the meeting room (called the “Auditorium”) of the Montana Historical Society, just across the street from and to the east of the State Capitol Building. The meeting will convene at 10 AM and we should be done by 4:00 to 4:30PM. We will take a lunch break from Noon to 1:00PM. We will conduct elections for officers and directors, have an annual report, establish MSSA’s 2015 legislative agenda, and conduct such other business as is proper. In addition, I will invite candidates for the US Senate and US House to address the meeting briefly. Best wishes, Gary Marbut, President Montana Shooting Sports Association Author, Gun Laws of Montana

Mental Health and the RKBA

Montana Legislature
Law and Justice Interim Committee
National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and Mental Health
February 13, 2014

Testimony for Committee, by
Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association

Will improved mental health evaluations, and data collection and reporting of mental health information decrease violence, especially gun-related violence?

I.  Qualifications to provide information.

Mr. Marbut is accepted in state and federal courts in civil and criminal cases as an expert concerning firearms safety, use of force, legitimate self defense, and related topics.  Mr. Marbut is an active self defense instructor and has graduated over 3,800 students from curricula concerning Montana laws, and the tactics and methods of defense.  Mr. Marbut is a member of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors, and a follower of and sometimes contributor to the Force Science Research Center.

II.  Precursor, background issues.

Before the question posed above can be effectively answered, some foundation issues must be addressed.

1.  Are people with mental health issues commonly prone to future violence?  No.  A 2009 study found that individuals with mental health disorders no more likely to commit acts of violence than the rest of the population; rather, future violence was indicated by other factors, such as substance abuse and a prior history of such acts. One explanation is that some individuals with severe disorders are too disorganized or afraid to commit crimes. For example, individuals with severe schizophrenia may have delusions – for instance, a belief that they and others around them face a danger of attack or threat. This leads some persons suffering from this form of delusion to seclude themselves from the outside world and to express extreme caution toward others…

2.  Is gun-related mass violence by persons with mental health issues increasing and is it a pressing national problem?  No and no.  Despite obsessive media reporting when such incidents occur, the number of those incidents and the number of victims claimed in those incidents remain static, this notwithstanding an increasing population size and increasing levels of gun ownership.

3.  Is there an increased national murder rate that can be attributed to mental health failures? No. Actually, murder rates in the US are dramatically down, again despite increasing rates of firearms ownership, increasing population, and stressful economic times.  Because overall murder rates, including murder rates with firearms, are in a definite downward trend, there is no rationale’ to claim increases because of people with mental health problems, or inadequate mental health reporting.

4.  Is the state of the art in psychology capable of correctly identifying people with mental health problems who are prone to violence.  No.  This answer only repeats what many professionals and experts in the field of psychology insist, that the art of psychology simply does not possess the tools at this stage in the evolution of the art to accurately predict violence.  Much better predictors of violence include drug use, and history of violence.
“Skilled and practiced mental health professionals have gotten a lot better at predicting short- term dangerousness,” said Dr. Steven E. Pitt, a forensic psychiatrist who consults with the Phoenix Police Department and directed the Columbine Psychiatric Autopsy Project after the 1999 school shootings. “But who’s going to commit violence in some unspecified future? You might as well consult a Ouija board.”

5.  Is there any connection at all between mass shootings and mental health?  Yes.  Besides that we’d consider crazy any person who would take the lives of innocents, there is another connection between mass shootings and mental health.  That connection is psychotropic drugs.  All of the mass shootings in recent memory have been done by people who either were actively taking prescribed psychotropic drugs, or who were supposed to be taking psychotropic drugs but quit.  In order to obtain these psychotropic drugs, these people perpetrating mass shootings were under the care of a mental health practitioner licensed to prescribe the drugs.  See:

6.  Base Rate Fallacy.  A well defined and important but little known phenomenon is base rate fallacy.  It has to do as much with statistics than with psychology, but it is essential for psychology.  There is an excellent article on Base Rate Fallacy in Wikipedia at:
Anyone contemplating the issue of mental health and persistent mental health records would be wise to learn about and understand the concept of base rate fallacy.

The essence is this:  Any widespread screening for a condition (e.g., mentally unstable person prone to violence) among the general population is guaranteed to turn up many more false positives than true positives, just because of an unavoidable error rate, which would be especially pronounced in the fuzzy field of psychology.  The false positives would outnumber the true positives by one or more orders of magnitude.  Thus, people not prone to violence would unavoidably be stigmatized and likely lose civil rights because of an error rate that cannot be eliminated.

7.  Persistent records/improper records non-correction.  There are not good, affordable or comprehensive mechanisms in place or available to get persistent records corrected if a person is incorrectly identified as prone to violence, or if the person gets treatment and is cured of any tendency towards violence.  This is especially true of the National Instant Check System (NICS).  People who are marked on NICS as ineligible for firearms transfer find it difficult or impossible to get records corrected.

Summery of a Texas legal case is in order here (US v. Bean, 537 U.S. 77(2002) ).  After attending a gun show in Texas, Thomas Bean drove to Mexico. When Mexican officials stopped his vehicle at the border, they found ammunition, and Bean was subsequently convicted in a Mexican court of importing ammunition. Because of his felony conviction, 18 USC section 922(g)(1) prohibited Bean from possessing, distributing, or receiving firearms or ammunition. Bean applied to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) for relief from his firearms disabilities, but the ATF returned the application unprocessed, explaining that its annual appropriations law forbade it from expending any funds to investigate or act upon applications such as Bean’s. Bean then filed suit, asking the District Court to conduct its own inquiry into his fitness to possess a gun and grant relief from his inability to possess, distribute, or receive firearms or ammunition.

In a unanimous Supreme Court opinion delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court held that the absence of an actual denial of Bean’s petition by ATF precludes judicial review. Because Bean’s application for relief from the firearms disabilities was not considered due to appropriation provisions, Justice Thomas reasoned that the court could not grant relief since the statute only permitted judicial review of an affirmative denial of an application.
Thus, Bean could not get his rights restored, notwithstanding that what he was convicted of in Mexico is not a crime in the US, simply because Congress had not funded the BATF’s process to correct records swept in from other countries, and restore Bean’s rights.  Not only was Bean, a competitive trapshooter, unable to purchase new firearms, he was ineligible for life to possess any firearms he had previously purchased legally.

8.  Barking up the wrong tree; “Gun free zones.”  Besides psychotropic drugs, the other common denominator for mass shootings in schools, theaters, and other places, is that they ALL happen in purported “gun free zones.”  These alleged “gun free zones,” of course, are NEVER “gun free,” but only gun free for the victims.  People bent on mayhem never respect “gun free zones.”  In fact. perpetrators of mass violence seek out disarmed victim zones, for obvious reasons.  Only those who respect the law and have no murderous intent comply with such silly zone rules and are thereby rendered defenseless.  Thus, “alleged “gun free zones” are demonstrated to be very dangerous places, places where deranged perpetrators are assured of a resistance free killing field.  Collection and sharing of mental health records will do nothing to address this glaring problem.

9.  Will a system-reported mental health deficiency prevent deranged people from acquiring guns?  No.   Almost universally, those who have committed mass shootings have acquired the guns they used through means that would not be interdicted by a NICS check.  A mental health disqualification for firearm purchase will only affect those who obtain guns through legal channels. That is, mental health evaluation and disqualification would have zero effect on the class of people intended for interdiction, perpetrators of mass shootings.

10.  Aren’t predictions far-fetched that large numbers of people will lose their civil rights because people who obtain mental health assistance will become deemed ineligible to exercise their right to keep and bear arms?  Absolutely not – not far-fetched at all.  Already, 150,000 returning military veterans have been stripped of their right to keep and bear arms because they have undergone counseling for possible PTSD, sometimes required by military commanders as a part of de-militarization for personnel.  See:

11.  Will the prospective loss of civil rights dissuade possibly needy people from seeing mental health professionals? Yes.  This is one major concern of the community of mental health professionals.  If there are people who need psychological intervention, the expected loss of their civil rights via data sharing will certainly persuade many of them to avoid any contact with the mental health community.

III.  Conclusion

People with mental health issues have no greater rate of violence than the public at large.  Any mental health search for violent people would assuredly turn up far more false positives than true positives (base rate fallacy).  These people tagged because of false positives would likely be stripped of their civil rights for life, with no practical way to get their records cleared or revised following treatment.  Within the arena of psychology, many experts assert that the art has not evolved sufficiently to provide tools allowing practitioners to correctly predict an individual’s future violence.   Even if the violent people could be identified and documented through mental health screenings, and disqualified from firearms purchase, that would not interdict the ability of such individuals to obtain guns and commit mayhem.  Integrating mental health treatment with civil rights denial systems will persuade many people who may need treatment to avoid treatment.  Nor would any such system address the dominant twin problems with mass shootings of psychotropic drugs and the low-hanging fruit for violent people of “gun free zones.”

Finally, there will be those who will respond with some version of, “… but if it saves just one life …”  Criminologist professor Gary Kleck estimates that 2.5 million people in the US defend themselves every year with a firearm.  In most cases the mere display of a firearm is sufficient to make assailants go away and save the defender, since Kleck says shots are fired in only 9% of these cases.  Causing a significant percentage of these 2.5 million people to be disarmed (revisit base rate fallacy) would certainly end up costing far more lives than might be saved through the fuzzy and problematic process of mental health screening and records sharing.

Will improved mental health evaluations, and data collection and reporting of mental health information decrease violence, especially gun-related violence?  No.  But it can destroy the civil rights of too many innocent people in a fruitless quest to “do something” about a media-manufactured crisis.  That would be especially unfortunate and unwise if the “something” were so easily predictable to be contraindicated.