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Notebook: ‘Guns everywhere’ law leads some to carry in Missoula County Courthouse

Despite the recently passed Republican measure allowing firearms just about everywhere, they still aren’t permitted in the Missoula County courthouse, though some are ignoring the rule. That court place court officials in danger. (Laura Lundquist/Missoula Current)

Montana has a new law allowing people to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Some are celebrating this, striding through the streets with their new sidearms. But while it’s opened up much of the state, the law doesn’t allow people to carry their guns everywhere. Apparently some haven’t recognized this fact.

On Thursday morning, I was in the Missoula County Courthouse looking up documents in the Clerk of Court office. Since the pandemic started, the office is locked and appointments are required to get in.

A man came in while I was there, so he must have had an appointment – I wasn’t paying attention at that point. I looked up only when I heard voices start to rise.

The man was carrying a gun, in spite of permanent signs on the courthouse doors that say guns aren’t allowed in the building. Those signs have been there probably since 1995 when Missoula County put the ordinance in place for county buildings.

He also must have simply walked past the new, bigger signs posted this week on the doors and throughout the building saying “The Missoula County Fourth Judicial District and the Missoula County Justice Court have issued a standing order that all persons are prohibited from possessing or carrying firearms in the Missoula County Court House and Annex, except for law enforcement personnel…”

A clerk asked the man to leave, saying guns weren’t allowed. The man got angry, asking if the rule was a political thing. Keeping his cool, the clerk, who’s a big man, said he wasn’t going to get into a political debate and again asked the man to leave.

Fortunately, the man left, although some clerks wondered if he might return and not be so cooperative.

Employees now have to worry about this sort of thing, because some people are so excited by their newfound ability to carry guns that they aren’t paying attention to the limits of the law.

The measure allows concealed carry without a permit in most places in the state. However, exceptions include secure law enforcement facilities, federal buildings, state and federal courtrooms, and secondary schools. Property owners and tenants can also prohibit firearm possession in businesses and private homes.

So the ban on guns in the courthouse is not some flouting of the new law by Missoula hippies. It’s included in the law. So, those carrying guns need to remember to lock them in their cars before they enter the courthouse or any business that prohibits them.

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