Montana Voters Say "No" To Local Gun Controls

Gun owners and Second Amendment supporters in Montana delivered a big victory for the right to bear arms this week, turning out in large numbers and propelling a ballot initiative barring local governments from passing their own concealed carry restrictions to victory in the Big Sky State.

LR-130 was approved by 51% of voters on Tuesday, despite anti-gun groups like Everytown for Gun Safety spending big in the state to defeat the ballot measure.

“LR-130 protects us from entities in the future enacting stricter gun laws than exist at the state level,” said state Rep. Matt Regier, R-Columbia Falls, who sponsored the bill to place LR-130 on the ballot.

He said LR-130 prevents Montana from having a patchwork of local gun ordinances, which could be difficult to track and comply with.

Several cities in Montana have rules prohibiting open or concealed carry at public gatherings or in parks or cemeteries that, with the passage of LR-130, may be illegitimate. For instance, the ordinances in Libby and Culbertson banning guns in cemeteries are likely no longer legal, and Helena likely won’t be able to continue requiring concealed carriers to alert local authorities if they visit or live in the city.

The NRA Big Sky Self-Defense Committee, the main group that supported LR-130, received nearly all the $51,600 it raised from the National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm, according to records from the commissioner of political practices.

The unsuccessful “Vote No on LR-130” campaign raised about $1.4 million and received significant in-kind contributions from national and state groups, including the Montana Federation of Public Employees, the Montana League of Cities and Towns, Alliance for Gun Responsibility, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and the Montana Human Rights Network, according to the commissioner of political practices records.

Defeating LR-130 was a priority for gun control groups, which have been trying to undo firearms preemption laws in many states, including Montana, for several years. When the city of Missoula passed a local universal background check ordinance back in 2016, Everytown for Gun Safety was fully on board, and when the law was challenged, the gun control group provided free legal services to the city in a failed attempt to keep the law on the books.

The Montana State Supreme Court ultimately rejected the local law as a violation of the state’s firearm preemption statutes, but 2A groups across the state began lobbying lawmakers to provide more protections for the Second Amendment. Legislation barring localities from establishing their own carry laws passed both the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Gov. Steve Bullock. Second Amendment activists then moved to put the bill before voters as LR-130, and Everytown quickly launched a campaign to defeat the proposal.

The fact that the measure passed despite the nearly 30-to-1 spending advantage by groups opposed to the ballot measure is worth highlighting. Money does matter in politics, but clearly it isn’t everything, and 2A advocates everywhere should take heart at the results in Montana. Even with the deep pockets of Michael Bloomberg and other anti-gun billionaires funding gun control efforts, those of us who work to protect the Second Amendment can and will defeat them.