U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- In a clear victory for the Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA), Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has signed legislation doing away with so-called “gun-free zones” and expanding places where firearms may be carried, including college and university campuses, and the Capitol in Helena.
MSSA President Gary Marbut, in an exclusive telephone conversation with Ammoland News, said Gianforte’s signature is “pretty significant” in more ways than one. To merely portray this legislation as allowing so-called constitutional carry “misses the mark a bit,” he said.
Marbut was honored in December by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms as the “Grassroots Activist of the Year” for 2020.
The measure includes campus carry, restaurant and bar carry, and for permit holders to carry inside state and local government buildings, and perhaps most importantly of all, the new law takes effect immediately, according to the Helena Independent Record. The exception is campus carry, which becomes effective this summer.
Private property owners still can prohibit firearms on their premises, the newspaper noted. According to a prepared statement from Marbut posted online, “This includes banks, bars, restaurants, stores, and a host of other publicly accessible places that are privately owned. Certainly, any such places will be required to give ‘fair notice’ of any firearms restrictions, usually by posting obvious signs. Some other states have laws such that if a gun carrier should walk past a no-guns sign on private property with a gun, that is a criminal offense. Not so in Montana.”
Marbut detailed the impacts of HB 102 in his lengthy online explanation, which may be read here.
“The general purpose of HB 102,” he stated, “is to eliminate dangerous ‘gun free zones,’ those places where only criminals would be armed because of a government prohibition that only law-abiding gun owners would obey. HB 102 has four major elements: Permitless carry, campus carry, restaurant and bar carry, and enhancement of existing concealed weapon permits (CWP), plus some minor elements.”
Later, Marbut observes, “Finally, there is no exception in the RKBA at Article II, Section 12 (of the Montana Constitution) for local governments to restrict this right, and no exception for the university system or the Board of Regents to restrict this right.”
For Marbut, it’s time to catch his breath. He has worked on this project for “six or eight years,” he recalled.
For Gov. Gianforte, it’s fulfillment and unlike his Democrat predecessors, he minced no words about telling the difference between the good guys and bad guys.
“Gun control measures don’t prevent criminals from perpetuating violence or crime. Gun control measures step on the rights of law abiding citizens,” the governor said during the signing ceremony.
Quoted by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Gov. Gianforte added, “And our Second Amendment is very clear: ‘The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’ Every law-abiding Montanan should be able to defend themselves and their loved ones.”
Gianforte is the first Republican to sit in the Montana governor’s office in 16 years, a fact that undoubtedly played a role in seeing HB 102 become law. Previously, then-Democrat Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed “several gun-related measures,” the Helena newspaper recalled.
The legislation was sponsored by State Rep. Seth Berglee (R-Joliet). It passed through the legislature almost entirely along party lines, a fact not lost on increasingly conservative Big Sky Country voters.
At the signing ceremony, as reported by the Daily Chronicle, Berglee observed, “The idea of self-defense has been a pillar in our society since even before the founding of our country. It’s a right that’s given by God and granted in the constitution. It’s my pleasure to bring House Bill 102, recognizing that the citizens of Montana have the ability to defend themselves, and I trust them with that responsibility.”
Montana’s Republican Attorney General Austin Knudsen also supported HB 102, newspapers said. He issued a statement lauding the bill.
“At a time when the president is calling for state-level gun registries, strong legislation affirming Montanans’ gun rights is more important than ever,” Knudsen said. “No bill in the last 20 years has done more to protect our fundamental right to keep and bear arms than Representative Seth Berglee’s bill that was signed into law today.”
The U.S. Concealed Carry Association issued a statement after the legislation was signed, applauding Gov. Gianforte.
“Every American should be able to defend themselves and their families at all times and the U.S. Concealed Carry Association applauds Governor Gianforte for signing this important legislation into law,” said USCCA founder and President Tim Schmidt. “It will help and support the growing number of Montanans who choose to exercise their natural born right to self-protection.
“With millions of new gun owners throughout the U.S.,” Schmidt added, “this bill is also a friendly reminder for all of them to have the proper training and education necessary to be a responsible self-protector – even if the law does not require it. Owning and carrying a firearm for self-defense comes with a lot of responsibility and safety should always be the number one priority.”
The legislation had opponents, including “Educators, gun owners, bankers, and law enforcement officials,” according to a statement from Democratic House Minority Leader Kim Abbott that was quoted by the Independent Record.
Abbott claimed the measure “makes our communities and our campuses less safe.” It’s an argument gun control proponents use when opposing virtually any firearms freedom legislation.
Marbut told Ammoland there is still work to do on gun rights. He hinted at some of this in his online discussion, but for now, Montana gun owners have a significant victory they can celebrate.
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