Montana Shooting Sports looks to intervene in Missoula’s gun suit against AG Fox

The Montana Shooting Sports Association is looking to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the city of Missoula against state Attorney General Tim Fox, saying its members’ constitutional rights may be impaired if the ordinance takes effect.

Filed in Missoula District Court last week, the organization’s brief claims that Fox, in his answer to the city’s lawsuit, failed to defend the individual rights of MSSA members under the Montana Constitution and the Montana Human Rights Act.

“The AG makes no effort whatsoever to protect MSSA members’ individual rights – none,” the suit contends. “The lack of all effort to do so eliminates any idea that the AG will do so in an adequate manner.”

Last year, Fox determined that Missoula’s recently passed ordinance requiring background checks for most gun sales and transfers was unenforceable. The city challenged that finding in April and filed a lawsuit in Missoula District Court.

Fox answered the city’s suit last month, suggesting it lacked merit on nearly every count. But that didn’t go far enough for the Montana Shooting Sports Association.

“The AG’s answer makes no mention of the Montana Constitution, the Montana Human Rights Act or the U.S. Constitution,” the organization’s brief contends. “Its defense is based solely on the collective rights under the AG’s statutory interpretation of the general preemption issue. It is not based on the protection or vindication of any individual rights, constitutional, statutory or otherwise.”

Gary Marbut, president of the MSSA, said Tuesday his organization was concerned that Fox’s response to the city’s lawsuit doesn’t assert the rights granted to citizens under the state Constitution.

An intervention by MSSA in the suit would cover that undefended legal area and address what Marbut describes as the Bloomberg Ordinance.

The MSSA brief suggests Missoula’s ordinance is the creation of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his lobby, Everytown for Gun Safety, which Marbut said offered the city legal advice when drafting its ordinance three years ago.

Everytown is representing the city in the case on a pro bono basis.

“This Bloomberg Ordinance is as loony as when the City Attorney assured the City Council years ago that the City could ban shooting everywhere within five miles of Missoula based on a century-old law that allowed cities to quarantine for tuberculosis,” Marbut said. “That ordinance was so bonkers that even Democrat Attorney General Mike Greeley ruled it to be in legal fantasy land.”

Marbut, represented by attorney Quentin Rhoades, said the law allows MSSA to intervene and be represented in a lawsuit that affects its members, some of whom live inside the Missoula city limits and would fall under the ordinance’s jurisdiction.

“MSSA believes that the Bloomberg Ordinance clearly will call into question the reserved and protected rights of MSSA members,” Marbut said.