Dear MSSA Friends,

I’m setting this message to send on 2/17, at 10 AM.  By then I should be done testifying in favor of HB 457 before the House Judiciary Committee.  I don’t want to give away in advance what my testimony will be.  I want it to be a surprise to HB 457 opponents.  But, I want you to know ASAP so you can follow up with requests that committee members ALL support HB 457.

So, what’s HB 457?  The RKBA in the Montana Constitution is at Article II, Section 12.  It is a good statement of the RKBA for Montana, EXCEPT that it concludes with these words, ", but nothing herein contained shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons."

This archaic language was first incorporated into the Montana Territorial Constitution of 1884.  It was repeated in the Montana Statehood Constitution of 1889, and in the rewrite of the Montana Constitution of 1972.  This language is a reflection of the culture in 1884, when it was presumed that people who wore concealed firearms were undesirables.

So, what will I tell the Committee?  I will say that this is a cultural dress code issue, just like the recent yoga pants and speedo bill the Committee killed, but in this case it is to remove an antiquated dress code issue from the law, not to add a new one.  This bill is about whether a person needs government permission to wear a coat, something often necessary in Montana.

And, I will say, Montana culture has changed a LOT since 1884 and 1889. I will tell Committee members that in 1889 there were only 11 counties in Montana, women couldn’t vote, and the State Senate was called the "Legislative Council."  I will tell the Committee that the following laws were in place in 1889:  Mandatory separate schools for children of African descent; abortion to be punished as murder; "Crimes Against Nature" (homosexuality) punished with up to life in prison; sale of firearms to Indians was prohibited; and a married woman could not convey property without her husband’s consent.

I will say that in our 2015 culture, law abiding people prefer to carry firearms concealed, both to avoid upsetting others, and to provide a tactical advantage in case of attack.  This is now the cultural norm.

I will tell the Committee that if yoga pants and speedos in public had been presented to the people of 1889, they would have banned those, for certain, just as a recent bill attempted to do.  I will say that the Legislature should offer the people of Montana a chance to vote on a constitutional change to repeal another simple dress code issue still lingering in law from 1884.

Friends, to get this constitutional change onto the ballot, we will need to get 100 favorable votes on HB 457 out of the 150 members of the Senate and House.  That means we will need a bunch of Democrats to vote for the bill.  And, THAT’S why we will need to frame it in terms with which Democrats are likely to resonate.

I will also tell Committee members that this change won’t have much impact on the street, because Montana already has pretty liberal concealed weapon laws, and we’ve already asked this Committee to liberalize existing laws with out Permitless Carry bill.  I will say that this is mostly about curing an antiquated dress code problem in Montana law, and about making the Montana Constitution culturally appropriate for this century.

I hope this explanation helps you frame messages to Committee members, maybe about the "Yoga Coat Bill."

Best wishes,

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

By mssa