Constitutional Carry Emerges As Issue In MT Governor's Race

The state of Montana already allows for legal gun owners to carry concealed without a license outside of city and town limits across the state, but full-scale permitless carry has become a hot-button issue in the waning days of the gubernatorial campaign.

The two candidates squaring off to become the state’s next governor have very different views on the issue, with Republican Greg Gianforte backing the idea while Democrat Mike Cooney is opposed. The two candidates met for a televised debate this week, and both of them made their positions clear to voters.

Cooney said he would not support legislation that allows for concealed carry without a permit, saying it would let people carry guns in banks and schools. He said the largest union for law enforcement doesn’t support such a bill either.

“It just isn’t the way we keep our communities safe.”

Cooney said he respects the right to bear arms and supports people owning guns to hunt and for personal protection.

Gianforte said there’s a clear delineation between himself and Cooney on this issue.

“I have an A rating from the NRA, I’m a life member. I’m endorsed by the NRA, I’m endorsed by the Montana Shooting Sports Association and Gun Owners of America. My opponent has a D rating.”

Gianforte said he would sign a bill allowing for concealed carry without a permit as governor.

Cooney, the state’s current Lt. Governor, has largely avoided talking about Second Amendment issues in his campaign. In fact, his official campaign website doesn’t even list gun policies among the issues that Cooney says he’ll address if elected. Still, the Democrat’s vocal opposition to permitless carry echoes the stance taken by current governor Steve Bullock, who’s running for U.S. Senate in the state against incumbent Republican senator Steve Daines.

Back in 2017, Bullock vetoed a permitless carry bill that passed the legislature, marking the third time that the governor rejected a constitutional carry measure, and Cooney’s vowed to continue that same opposition if he’s elected in November.

Gianforte, on the other hand, has been a vocal supporter of the Second Amendment while in Congress, voting against gun control measures like HB9, a so-called universal background check bill. In fact, Gianforte attempted to amend the bill to allow for farmers and ranchers to be able to legally transfer firearms to their employees or neighbors for “the purposes of ranch activities., including pest and predator control, hunting, target practice, or firearm safety,” but the amendment was rejected by House Democrats.

If Cooney is elected, not only can Montana gun owners expect him to veto any measure that would strengthen or secure the Second Amendment rights of residents, but to push for gun control measures as well. During the Democratic primary, Cooney not only embraced the idea of universal background checks, but also expressed his support for a “red flag” firearm seizure law that would allow police to seize lawfully owned firearms from people who’ve been deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others, even if they’ve not been accused of a crime, much less convicted of one.

Montana voters have a clear choice on Election Day when it comes to their Second Amendment rights. Greg Gianforte will work to protect them, while Mike Cooney will work to erode them.