March 2, 2024

Opinion

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Montana – The NRA just sent out a political alert that contained this line about Montana: “Montana House to Vote on Concealed Carry Permit Reciprocity.”

News Flash. The Montana Shooting Sports Association successfully pushed a bill in 1993 that I wrote to give Montana permit reciprocity. That Montana law was improved in 1995 with another bill I wrote. Because of that success, Montana recognizes all other state permits, and Montana permits are honored by 34 other states. Plus, Montana is now permitless for both open and concealed carry, so we even let people from New York and California carry here.

Thirty years later, the NRA comes along with its own bill claiming to create reciprocity for Montana. What’s up with that?

The NRA solicited introduction of HB 674, a bill intended to create an “enhanced concealed weapon permit” here. This bill is alleged to gain recognition of the new “enhanced” Montana permits by five more states. If the NRA had bothered to ask us about this D.C.-centric idea, we’d have told them it is not suitable for Montana and that the bill, as drafted, was seriously flawed, but they didn’t bother to ask. For lack of local knowledge, the bill the NRA introduced had to have a dozen amendments applied to it to fix the drafting errors and make it more compliant with existing Montana law.

But, that heavy fix didn’t complete the repair of the bill.

The five states with which the NRA bill would allegedly get Montana reciprocity all currently disallow Montana permits because they don’t recognize permits of states that issue to persons under 21 years old. Current permits in Montana are issued to qualified applicants who are 18. The touted NRA bill would limit the new “enhanced” permit, after jumping through many more qualifying hoops than existing Montana permits, only to people 21 years and older. That’s a fatal and unrepaired flaw in the NRA bill. Why?

Because the Montana Constitution declares that persons 18 years old are adults and must be allowed all privileges of adulthood.

That section of the Montana Constitution had to be amended to allow the Legislature to restrict possession of alcohol to persons 21 years and older, and again to allow the Legislature to restrict marijuana to persons 21 and older. Without another constitutional change, the NRA bill allowing their “enhanced” permits only for people 21 and older will simply not pass constitutional muster in Montana. In that case, even if the bill passes with a constitutionally-correct age of 18, it will not allow Montanans to use these new “enhanced” permits in the five states alleged to be the reason for the bill.

What a mess! And this mess is because the NRA is so desperate for relevance that it chose to wing this effort without talking to knowledgeable people in Montana about the idea and effort.

Meanwhile, the NRA refuses to acknowledge or support the pro-gun bills MSSA has working through the Legislature. This includes a bill to remove an 1884 Jim Crow provision in our RKBA that says the RKBA doesn’t apply to concealed weapons. This includes our bill to pay court costs for a defender who is prosecuted, pleads self-defense, and is acquitted. It includes our bill to prohibit discrimination because of firearms. It includes our bill to pay court costs and attorney fees if a person wins a suit against a government entity to secure the person’s RKBA.

The NRA is withholding support for all of these good MSSA bills while pushing its seriously flawed “enhanced” permit bill that won’t accomplish its alleged objective because it is constitutionally impermissible in Montana.

Since the 1980s, Montana Shooting Sports Association has gotten 70 pro-gun bills through the Montana Legislature and enacted them into law. None of these were initiated or written by the NRA, although the NRA did support a few of them. Maybe the NRA, in its quest for contemporary relevance, is jealous of MSSA’s record of success and seeks to show what a gorilla it is. If so, it misses its target by a wide margin with its ill-conceived HB 674 in Montana.


Gary Marbut is president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, the primary political advocate for Montana gun owners. Marbut has served on the Board of Directors of Gun Owners of America and has twice been the recipient of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Grass Roots Activist of the Year award.

Gary Marbut
Gary Marbut

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