Caven Wade

(UM Legislative News Service) The Senate Business and Labor Committee discussed a bill on Wednesday, Feb. 22, that would prohibit financial institutions from using databases to track the sale of firearms, accessories, components, and ammunition.

Sen. Terry Vermeire, R-Anaconda, is sponsoring Senate Bill 359, which would remove the ability for companies across the state to monitor monetary transactions of guns or anything related.

“This is a pro-firearms piece of legislation,” Vermiere said. 

Vermeire said the reason for the bill is that in September the International Organization for Standardization approved a new merchant category code that would allow for financial institutions to track firearms sales across the globe.

Austin Knudsen, Montana’s Attorney General, was one of four supporters of the bill who testified. He said this has been an issue that he has been active in because it would only be used by companies in correlation with governments to track firearm sales.

“That’s something as the Attorney General that I take very seriously. I think that’s a violation of their constitutional rights,” Knudsen said.

Lisa Bennett, a resident of Carbon County who works in the hunting industry, spoke in support of the bill saying that getting support from financial institutions is already hard enough for companies and the addition of the companies being able to tell if you support firearms or are in that industry has made it even more difficult.

“I’m sure you’re aware of legislation in California, and if not I’ll make you aware of it, that contractors doing business with the state of California had to register if they were affiliated or a member of the NRA. I mean this is not observed that this can actually expand to other things, we need to cut it off right now,” Bennett said.

She said companies such as Bank of America, Venmo, Apple and more can see your political affiliation through transactions, and if they don’t agree with it, she says they will cut you off from their services.

“By allowing these businesses to track these sales you’re discriminating against us. I would ask you to please support this bill, and I would go even further than this bill goes,” Bennett said.

Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sport Association said in support of the bill that though he hasn’t seen what Bennett was discussing in Montana he’s heard chatter about it nationally, and believes the state needs to get ahead of it.

Marbut and Knudsen said that he would like to see additions to the bill include an enforcement mechanism or measures that could be used to make the financial companies comply with the law.

There were no opponents who testified at the bills hearing. The committee did not take immediate action on the bill.