This election cycle Montanans will be asked to approve or reject Legislative Referendum 130 (LR130). I hope you will join me in voting NO on this ill-conceived and untimely piece of legislation, and here’s why:

On its surface LR130 sounds innocuous enough, the title of the bill asking us to “secure the right to keep and bear arms” (a right we already have). But as is often the case, the devil is in the details, and in this case the details act to subvert and degrade the fundamental right of all Montanans to assemble peacefully as guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution.

Today, people are being killed at demonstrations by gun-toting radicals. It happened in Portland, Oregon and in Kenosha, Wisconsin; notably, in the first case by a leftist radical and in the second case by a rightist radical.

Gun violence at demonstrations is abetted by the fact that currently 36 states either explicitly allow or don’t forbid the open carry of firearms at public rallies, but also preempt local governments from making their own rules that would act to prohibit firearms at public demonstrations.

At the other end of the spectrum, seven states and the District of Columbia actually bar firearms at all public rallies and demonstrations. In the middle are nine states that do not expressly forbid firearms at public rallies, but do allow local governments the autonomy to make their own rules regarding firearms at demonstrations within their jurisdictions.

Montana is currently one of these latter states, and in fact at least Helena and Missoula have enacted ordinances that do indeed prohibit firearms at public rallies and demonstrations … keeping them safe and peaceful. LR130, if passed, would repeal the right of local governments in Montana to regulate the carrying of firearms at demonstrations, thereby depriving the citizenry of their current right to address these situations as they best see fit. This is simply the wrong direction to be headed, especially in today’s extremely heated and divisive political landscape.

This is not a partisan matter; it is neither left nor right, liberal nor conservative, Democrat nor Republican. It is simply a matter of common sense, and as a lifelong Montanan I know that that is what Montanans do best. So, please, this election cycle act to preserve the autonomy of our local governments, the safety of our children at rallies and demonstrations, and the right to peaceful assembly by voting No! on LR130.

Larry Finch, Helena