Obviously the big story in the 2020 elections is the presidential race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and with the president testing positive for COVID-19 late Thursday, that’s not going to change anytime soon. There are a number of key elections for Second Amendment supporters beyond the race at the top of the ticket, however, and a Montana ballot referendum could end up having a big impact in a political race that could determine who controls the U.S. Senate.
Voters in the state will be casting their ballots on a measure known as LR-130, which would reinforce the firearm preemption language already contained in state law. The measure was placed on the ballot by Second Amendment supporters after gun control activists attempted to undo the preemption statute by putting a local universal background check measure in place in Billings.
The state Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the local ordinance in 2019, declaring that the measure violated the preemption law, but Republicans in the statehouse and Second Amendment supporters across the state decided that the voter referendum was necessary to ensure that other localities wouldn’t attempt a similar stunt in the future.
Legislative Referendum 130 asks voters to remove local governments’ power to regulate the carrying of concealed firearms – or to restrict the open carry of firearms – except in public buildings within a government’s jurisdiction.
The measure, if approved, also would repeal local government’s authority to prevent the possession of firearms by convicted felons, minors, undocumented immigrants and or people judged to be mentally incompetent. The measure doesn’t affect other federal or state firearms restrictions about such possession.
It was that language that anti-gun attorneys representing Billings used to try to justify the city’s universal background check ordinance, and even with the state Supreme Court decision, Second Amendment activists say the statute needs to be repealed.
Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, was one of the ballot issue’s architects.
He said that Montana already has a preemption law that, when boiled down, effectively prohibits local governments from regulating guns.
“All local governments are creatures of the state,” Marbut said. “LR-130 reinforces the restriction in the Montana Constitution on our right to keep and bear arms.”
So how could this impact the U.S. Senate? Well, the race between incumbent senator Steve Daines and his Democratic challanger, Gov. Steve Bullock, is pretty tight right now, and who turns out on Election Day is going to be key in determining the winner. With the pro-2A referendum on the ballot, gun owners have even more motivation to show up to the polls, especially since Bullock vetoed a bill that would have accomplished the same thing as LR-130 in the last legislative session.
If Republicans are going to keep control of the Senate, this is a race they can’t afford to lose, and LR-130 should help goose turnout among conservatives and gun owners. The Great Falls Tribune does note in its reporting that opponents of LR-130 are spending several hundred thousand dollars to try to defeat the measure, but I suspect that in gun-friendly Montana, they’re facing an uphill battle in their quest to impose local gun controls on a freedom-loving populace.