Montana lawmakers advance bill to nullify federal gun bans
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A measure that would prohibit state and local law enforcement officials in Montana from enforcing federal bans on firearms, ammunition and magazines is nearing passage in the state Legislature just a week after President Joe Biden urged Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The Republican-controlled Senate voted Wednesday 30-20 in favor of the measure. They are set to vote on the bill for a third and final time this week before the bill heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, who has not commented on whether he would sign the bill into law.
The bill would ban state employees from enforcing or implementing federal bans on firearms, magazines or ammunition.
Supporters of the bill say it would protect the Second Amendment from stiffer gun control laws that could come from federal legislation or executive orders by President Joe Biden in the wake of two mass shootings that killed 10 people in Colorado and eight people in Georgia earlier this month.
“We don’t know what that’s going to look like, but I don’t have any hope that it’s not going to look bad to those of us who appreciate the Second Amendment,” Republican Sen. Tom McGillvray said.
Opponents of the bill have said it would make it difficult for local law enforcement to collaborate with federal authorities on issues beyond gun access when such collaboration is essential to protect public safety, including in cases of domestic violence and drug offenses.
“States can’t limit federal law. That’s basic,” said Sen. Susan Webber, a Democrat.
Montana is one of at least a dozen states that have sought to nullify new gun restrictions this year. The state’s Republican-controlled Legislature has attempted to pass similar measures into law for almost a decade. Such bills were vetoed by former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock in 2013, 2015 and 2017. Republican lawmakers hope the ban will find a more favorable fate with Gianforte, the state’s first Republican governor in 16 years.
The measure is advancing several weeks after Gianforte signed into law a bill that relaxes gun restrictions in the state, allowing concealed firearms to be carried in most places in the state without a permit and expanding the list of places where guns can be carried to include university campuses and the state Capitol.
Samuels is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.