Dear MSSA Friends,
I’ve attended and testified at public hearings for six bills before legislative committees in Helena over the last three days. Here’s a brief report on those bills with suggested followup by you.
HB 212 before Senate Fish and Game. HB 212 would clarify by law that the right to "harvest wild fish and game animals" in the Montana Constitution includes trapping, as well as hunting and fishing. I told the committee that I, personally, had selected those words and crafted that language for the constitutional referendum MSSA pressed in about 2003 to secure that general right in the Montana Constitution. And, I told the Committee, I specifically selected that verbiage to include trapping within the umbrella of the protected right. The opposition was almost entirely anti-trapping people, the same ones who have twice tried to run a statutory initiative to create a law that would ban trapping on public land.
HB 320, before the House Judiciary Committee, would clarify that school boards may, BUT ARE NOT REQUIRED TO, expel for one year a student who forgets to take a hunting rifle, shotgun or other firearm out of the student’s vehicle before parking in the school parking lot. Over 450 Montana kids have had their educational futures derailed because administrators mistakenly told school boards that they had no choice under federal law but to expel such kids for a full year. The Committee will likely take executive action on HB 320 tomorrow (Friday), so it’s not too late to get messages to Committee members asking them to support this bill.
HB 298, before House Judiciary Committee, is MSSA’s "Permitless Carry" bill, which would make concealed carry legal inside city limits without a permit, as long as the carrier is eligible under law to possess firearms. The Committee will likely take executive action on HB 298 tomorrow (Friday), so it’s not too late to get messages to Committee members asking them to support this bill.
HB 371, before the House Judiciary Committee, is MSSA’s bill to fix the Montana "Prohibited Places" law at 45-8-328. This law makes it illegal to exercise a CWP in a bar, bank, or public building (although this misconceived law doesn’t prohibit open carry in those places). HB 371 would open up all of these places, except genuine bars but including restaurants, to concealed carry by CWP-holders. The Committee will likely take executive action on HB 371 tomorrow (Friday), so it’s not too late to get messages to Committee members asking them to support this bill.
If both HB 298 and 371 pass, any lawful gun owner could carry concealed inside city limits without a permit, just like outside city limits for the last 24 years, but CWP-holders would have the extra privilege of being able to carry in "Prohibited Places."
HB 388, before the House Judiciary Committee, is MSSA’s bill to correct a misunderstanding by the Montana Supreme Court. The Court said in a decision that it didn’t understand what the Legislature intended with MSSA’s 2009 bill that required investigators, in any situation where self defense is apparent or alleged, to conduct an investigation so as to disclose all evidence, including evidence that could exonerate a self-defender accused of a crime. HB 388 clarifies the language of the existing statute so even the Montana Supreme Court can’t misunderstand legislative intent. The Committee will likely take executive action on HB 388 on Monday, so it’s not too late to get messages to Committee members asking them to support this bill.
HB 281, before the House Judiciary Committee, would require game wardens to comply with all the requirements for arrest, search, and seizure that deputy sheriffs are required under law to comply with. It would also establish an affirmative defense of "trivial mistake" for violation of fish and game laws that hopefully will reduce the plethora of citations game wardens tend to write for some honest-intentioned person who is accused of failing to dot some "I" while hunting or fishing. The Committee will likely take executive action on HB 281 on Monday, so it’s not too late to get messages to Committee members asking them to support this bill.
When beginning this email, I intended to list the primary opponents to each bill. That’s too tedious, but there is a common denominator. All major opponents to all of these bills were representing government institutions: The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, the Montana County Attorneys Association, the Montana Police Protective Association, the Montana Game Wardens Association, the Montana School Administrators Association, and other groups representing government employees. When MSSA attempts to expand liberty, or to rein in government, government institutions turn out big time in attempt to thwart MSSA, always.
That’s enough. I need to get to work on some proposed amendments for HB 320. The school establishment may even support this bill if I can get the amendments tweaked right so as to satisfy their concerns without giving up important points.
Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana