Although voters in November’s election had a refreshing break from initiatives to impose new gun-control laws, there was a pro-gun ballot measure this fall in Big Sky Country.
LR 130, a ballot measure to limit local government authority to regulate firearms, was supported by the NRA and approved by Montana’s voters. Voters had to contend with a barrage of misinformation along with the typical outsized spending by Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety to defeat the measure.
The path to this vote started when the City of Missoula enacted a 2016 ordinance to criminalize private firearm sales, gifts, loans, and other “transfers” unless the parties processed the transaction through a licensed firearm dealer and had a NICS check done. Like almost every other state, Montana has firearm preemption laws that prohibit local governments from regulating firearms as they please. The Montana Attorney General concluded that state preemption statutes prohibited Missoula from enforcing its ordinance. The city responded with litigation against the Attorney General, seeking a declaration that its ordinance was lawful. A year ago, the state’s highest court ruled 5-0 in favor of the Attorney General, finding that the ordinance violated the preemption laws.
State lawmakers then passed HB 325, an amendment to the preemption laws that would confine local governments’ authority to regulate firearms to firearms carried by unlicensed persons in publicly-owned buildings controlled by that locality. Bloomberg’s Everytown/ Moms Demand Action opposed the legislation and called on Governor Bullock to veto HB 325. Governor Steve Bullock (D) did veto HB 325, which triggered the placement of an identical measure, HB 357, on the ballot as LR-130, a legislatively referred statute (Montana’s constitution and statute law protect such measures from a governor’s veto).
Opponents of LR-130 used deceptive mailers that painted the measure as “an attempt by lobbyists and out-of-touch politicians to take away our freedom;” elsewhere, they referenced the “need to protect our Second Amendment rights” and claimed LR-130 was “unconstitutional.” Ignoring the 2019 court ruling invalidating Missoula’s ordinance, opponents alleged that local government “decisions” on firearms had not been challenged by proponents “because they know they’d lose.” Besides these desperate assertions, Everytown and its gun-control allies spent 27 times the amount spent by supporters of the measure in the lead-up to the election.
Voters were not deceived.
Montana’s voters not only supported LR-130, they made it clear that they’d had enough of Steve Bullock and his side-winding ways on the Second Amendment. After failing in his bid to be the Democrat nominee in the 2020 presidential race, Bullock had opted to run for the U.S. Senate, facing off against incumbent Steve Daines (R). Unlike the anti-gun positions he espoused as governor and presidential candidate, senatorial candidate Bullock found it expedient to profess his support for “gun rights,” with a fake hunters’ group even advertising that he was “strong on guns.”
Although Bullock did well in Missoula County, the flip-flopper flopped with Montanans overall, who preferred his opponent by a decisive ten percent margin.
For billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the defeat on LR-130 is likely another indication that, regardless of the huge funding disparities between real grassroots organizations and the anti-gun advocacy groups bankrolled by his millions, everyday Americans feel their freedom is not for sale.