Even though the Supreme Court has acknowledged our right to bear arms in self-defense anti-gunners are intent on making as many publicly accessible places as possible off-limits to concealed carry, and in many blue states that have enacted Bruen response bills the new “sensitive places” where lawful carry is banned include public transportation.
Keeping those places gun-free in theory (if not in reality) is hugely important to the gun control movement. Ideally, of course, they’d like to prohibit carrying a firearm in private transportation as well (in fact, New Jersey has tried to do that very thing, though a federal judge has enjoined that aspect of the carry law from being enforced), but by blocking concealed carry holders from bringing their firearms onto buses, subway cars, and light rail systems they can deprive millions of Americans who rely on public transportation from exercising their right to bear arms throughout the course of their daily routine. If you can’t carry on a bus, it’s impossible for you to carry on your way to the bus stop or once you reach your destination, which leaves countless individuals disarmed and defenseless as they go to and from work.
In Missoula, Montana, however, concealed carry holders and lawful gun owners (Montana is a constitutional carry state, after all) are now free to use the city’s public bus system without fear of prosecution. The Missoula Urban Transportation District, which operates the Mountain Line bus system, says it’s “reluctantly” scrapping the prohibition on firearms after a local Second Amendment organization threatened to haul them into court over the policy.
“Mountain Line was recently compelled to announce an unwelcome change to our weapons policy, a change forced upon us not by choice, but by legal necessity,” the organization wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “As of October 1, 2023, our buses will now only prohibit unlawful weapons. However, our existing policy banning any kind of weapon in Mountain Line buildings remains in place. This change is in reluctant compliance with a Montana state law enacted in 2020, which severely restricts local government’s ability to regulate firearms. As a government agency, the Missoula Urban Transportation District is legally bound to comply. We have maintained our original policy as long as we could, but recent threats left us with no viable alternative.”
“Let us be unequivocally clear,” Mountain Line’s statement continued. “This decision was made neither lightly nor willingly. Since late August, when MUTD became aware of a potential lawsuit from a pro-gun special interest group, we have consulted with legal experts and other agencies around Montana and across the country to determine what recourse, if any, was available to us. The MUTD Board of Directors and senior staff have spent many hours deliberating on the best available course of action to keep our employees and passengers — as well as the wider community — as safe as possible. The conclusion is inescapable: resisting this change would likely be a futile and costly endeavor.”
“We strongly disagree with the notion that allowing firearms on public transit serves the best interests of the community and the people who regularly use or operate buses,” Mountain Line’s statement continues. “The legislation as written did not adequately consider public transit, safety, common sense, and local expertise, and the current law undermines our commitment to ensuring the safety of our employees, passengers, and the community.”
The left is going to be dragged kicking and screaming into recognizing our fundamental right to keep and bear arms, but no matter how much the MUTD wants to complain about the state law prohibiting these kinds of bans, they’re at least complying with the letter of the law; an important victory for gun owners and the Montana Shooting Sports Association, which had sent a letter to MUTD officials earlier this year warning that a lawsuit was coming if the transportation district didn’t change its policies.
Not only can lawful gun owners who depend on public transportation now get from Point A to Point B without having to disarm themselves in the process, the MSSA and president Gary Marbut were able to get this change enacted without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. That’s a win in and of itself given how many unconstitutional rules, regulations, and laws across the country need to be challenged. No matter how reluctantly the MUTD came to its conclusion, it’s still doing the right thing by taking the “L” and changing its policy rather than going to court to defend the indefensible.
Were violent criminals ever going to obey Mountain Line’s “gun-free” edict in the first place? Of course not. Like almost every other “gun-free zone” in existence, the policy basically went on the honor system in terms of compliance. There were no metal detectors attached to the bus doors or police officers riding shotgun beside the driver to ensure the personal safety of those on board or to guarantee the sanctity of that supposedly “sensitive place”. The MUTD board simply didn’t want guns on buses, and if lawful citizens were the only ones to comply then that was better than nothing to them, even if it placed those riders at risk of being victimized before and after they hopped on board.
These public transportation bans are worthless from a public safety perspective and they do an immense amount of harm to those who depend on public transport in their daily routine. Montana’s lawmakers were smart enough to recognize this when prohibiting localities from imposing their own “sensitive places” back in 2020, but in states from California to New Jersey, we’re going to have to educate federal judges on the unconstitutional nature of these bans because the legislature is a lost cause.