MISSOULA — Montana’s attorney general will issue a legal opinion on a Missoula ordinance requiring background checks for private gun sales.
The Montana Department of Justice received a formal request for an opinion on the measure from Austin Knudsen, the Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives, department spokesman John Barnes told the Missoulian.
The Missoula ordinance takes effect in late October and will require the background checks for most private gun sales or trades. The rule makes some exceptions for family transfers, hunting and emergency self-defense.
Attorney General Tim Fox has three months to issue his legal opinion. It will have the force of law unless overruled by a state district court or the Montana Supreme Court.
Knudsen, a Culbertson Republican, has said Missoula’s new ordinance is in direct violation of state law as well as sections of the Montana and U.S. constitutions. The Montana Code says a local government may not restrict or regulate the purchase, sale or transfer of a firearm.
Missoula City Attorney Jim Nugent points to a subsection of the state law that allows local governments to prevent and suppress “the possession of firearms by convicted felons, adjudicated mental incompetents, illegal aliens and minors.” But Knudsen says the ordinance is too broad to be covered by that subsection.
Missoula is the first city in Montana to require a background check on private firearm sales. Gov. Steve Bullock, a former state attorney general, and his Republican opponent Greg Gianforte have also said they believe the ordinance violates state law.
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