HELENA – The House of Representatives gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a bill meant to preserve Montanans’ right to bear arms by prohibiting the enforcement of any federal ban on firearms or ammunition.
The House passed Senate Bill 99 on a 60-40 vote. It will be up for a final vote on Wednesday.
The bill passed out of the Senate in February on a 30-20 vote before moving to the House. It would establish the “Montana Federal Firearm, Magazine and Ammunition Ban Enforcement Prohibition Act.”
“We did add a couple of amendments to it to allow for federal assistance, as long as it is not for the primary purpose of prohibiting, restricting or requiring any of the federal bans,” Berglee said.
At the bill’s first hearing in the House Patrick Audet, lobbyist for the School Administrators of Montana, opposed the bill and said it would allow firearms on school campuses.
“If an officer couldn’t enforce that law, that would be a problem. We would be opposed to that,” Audet said.
Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, said Audet is referring to a federal act called the “Gun-Free School Zones Act.” The act prohibits anyone from openly carrying a loaded firearm (one that’s not properly stowed) within 1,000 feet from school grounds.
Marbut supported SB 99 and said past legislation already exempts Montana from that law.
“The Legislature passed a statute, frankly that I wrote, that said because we have the right to keep and bear arms in Montana every law-abiding adult is deemed to be licensed by the state, pursuant to the federal ‘Gun-Free School Zones Act,’” Marbut said.
Marbut said the only other ban for firearms on school grounds is a different one called the “Gun-Free Schools Act,” in which the federal government encourages each state to introduce their own laws for firearms on campus. He said since that ban would be considered a state law, a school resource officer’s enforcement of the state’s ban would not be affected by the bill.
Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.