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Two Important Pro-Gun Bills Await Governor’s Signature in Montana

Monday, May 9, 2011

House Bill 159, which would limit the authority of the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), as well as House Bill 271, a permitless carry bill, are both awaiting action by Governor Brian Schweitzer.  The Governor has until this Thursday, May 12, to act on these bills.  As long as HB 159 and HB 271 are not vetoed, they will become law.

 

House Bill 159sponsored by state Representative Cary Smith (R-55), would restrict the authority of the FWP and the FWP Commission to regulate firearms and ammunition.  

 

The need for this bill became evident last year when FWP proposed regulatory changes for the 2010-2011 hunting season.  Absent one shred of scientific evidence in support of their suggested change, FWP proposed that lead shot be prohibited for all upland game bird hunting on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) throughout the state.  A review of the “Hunting Season/Quota Change Supporting Information” document prepared by FWP was shocking in that it provided absolutely NO support for this recommended policy change.

 

In fact, it contained multiple points indicating a lack of objective biological or scientific support for this proposed change.  Consider this quote from the FWP “support” document with respect to the requirement that even very low density grouse hunters would be prohibited from using lead shot on WMAs:  “Lead presence and accumulation under extremely low levels of lead shot shell use has not been established as a significant environmental concern.”  Or this comment which clearly shows the politicization of the issue:   “…this proposal is as much or more about programmatic message and general intent as it is about specific resource protection or management need.”  FWP should be all about managing and protecting the resource, not sending “programmatic messages”!

 

Their own language would indicate that this proposal was nothing more than a political and symbolic gesture. This is of concern because it is consistent with other states moving in the direction of broader restrictions on the use of lead ammunition for hunting.  The enactment of House Bill 159 would remove this purely political, potential outcome by restricting the authority of FWP to regulate this aspect of game management.

 

House Bill 271, the permitless carry bill, would amend existing state law requiring a person to obtain a concealed weapon permit in order to discreetly carry a firearm for self-protection within city limits in Montana.  HB 271 simply states that the prohibition on concealed carry does not apply to “a person who is eligible to possess a handgun under state or federal law.”  

 

Existing Montana law already allows any law-abiding citizen who can legally possess a handgun to carry it concealed, without a permit, anywhere outside city limits.  So, no carry permit is currently required for law-abiding citizens in over 99% of the state.  It makes no sense to allow them to carry concealed without a permit on one side of the line but not the other!  Law-abiding citizens do not suddenly turn into criminals when they cross the arbitrary boundary into a city.  Additionally, law-abiding citizens are authorized to carry a firearm openly, either loaded or unloaded, anywhere in the state, including within city limits.

 

The difference between a firearm carried openly and a firearm carried concealed can be as insignificant as the donning of a coat.  It really makes no sense to require a law-abiding citizen to pay a fee, endure a relatively significant bureaucratic process, be subjected to fingerprinting, obtain the government’s permission and be added to a government-maintained list of firearm owners simply so they can wear a coat.

Please contact Governor Schweitzer today and respectfully urge him to sign into law House Bill 159 and House Bill 271! The Governor can be contacted by calling (406) 444-3111 or by e-mail at brianschweitzer@mt.gov.

 

Thanks to everyone who communicated with their legislators over these last few months.  Your efforts truly made the difference in passing pro-gun bills through the legislative process!

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