Anti-Gun Activists Bemoan End To Local Laws In Montana

When voters in the Big Sky state went to the polls on Election Day this year, not only did they have a chance to vote in pro-gun candidates for president, U.S. Senator, governor, and state legislative offices, they were also presented with a ballot measure to bar localities from passing their own laws dealing with the lawful carrying of firearms.

The measure was almost identical to legislation that had been previously approved by the legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Steve Bullock. Second Amendment activists pushing the referendum, known as LR-130, were outspent by gun control activists, but the gun vote turned out in force and the ballot measure was approved by 51% of the state’s voters.

Now those same anti-gun activists and politicians who lobbied against the measure are slowly coming to terms with their loss, and as a Second Amendment supporter their glum is glorious to see.

For Missoula City Council President Bryan von Lossberg, however, the passage of LR-130 enacts “the most extreme advancement of concealed carry rights that the state has ever seen.” Von Lossberg was the sponsor of a 2016 Missoula city ordinance that expanded background checks on local gun sales. That ordinance inflamed gun rights advocates, sparking a legal battle that ended with the Montana Supreme Court striking down the law.

LR-130 now renders moot another Missoula city ordinance, passed in 2018, prohibiting the carrying of firearms at polling locations and in developed city parks. Von Lossberg notes that particular law was in part a codification of long-practiced prohibitions made at the behest of the Missoula County attorney’s office, and in part a response to incidents of intimidation reported at polling stations located in non-publicly owned buildings. The vote on that ordinance was accompanied by considerable debate and compromise, he said.

“We had what was a very thoughtful, deliberative legislative discussion around the difference between developed parks that have like playground equipment and stuff … versus an open space area” owned by the city, von Lossberg said. “In my mind, the vast majority of the community gets that.”

In his mind, none of Missoula’s local gun control laws were problematic, even though the state’s Supreme Court ruled otherwise. As for his “thoughtful, deliberative” discussion about banning guns in developed city parks, where’s the logic behind that decision? You can exercise your right to armed self-defense, but only in open spaces and not in a park with a playground? Silly ordinances like that are one of the primary reasons why voters approved the ban on local gun ordinances in the first place.

Support for LR-130 was geographically widespread in Montana, according to election results recorded by the Secretary of State’s office. The measure passed by wide margins in many rural counties, as well as in Flathead, Cascade and Yellowstone counties. The rural results did contain one exception: Fallon County voted down LR-130 by 37 votes. In the end, only seven counties voted against LR-130 including Missoula, Gallatin and Lewis and Clark.

Von Lossberg has a hard time containing his frustration over the way LR-130 played out. He believes his Missoula constituents are less safe today than they were before Nov. 3, and argues that the referendum cuts against the historical grain of local government control in Montana.

“The hypocrisy of ranting that the government closest to the people is the best government, blah blah blah, and then the misrepresentations of what we had actually done and implemented, it’s just — oh, I’ve got to be careful — that kind of legislative policymaking is not in the interests of the safety of my constituents,” von Lossberg said.

It’s pretty simple. You can believe that the government that’s closest to the people is the most likely to best represent them, but that doesn’t mean that local governments are incapable of violating the rights of their residents. No governmental entity has the authority to violate the constitutional rights of American citizens. Not the federal government, not your state lawmakers, and not your city council members, even if they swear they have the interests of the safety of their constituents in mind.

The butthurt of the gun-banners is likely to continue in the new year in Montana. The same voters that approved LR-130 also elected a pro-2A Republican as the state’s next governor, and Greg Gianforte has already announced that he’ll sign a constitutional carry bill if it’s sent to his desk next session. The state legislature has already approved the measure before, but outgoing governor Steve Bullock also vetoed that bill. Without Bullock serving as a roadblock the Second Amendment rights of Montanans should soon be stronger than ever, and thanks to the vote of gun owners in the state, activist politicians like Bryan von Lossberg can no longer try to infringe on those rights through local ordinances.