Montana Considers Gun Bills Shot Down in Previous Sessions

Randy Brodehl of Kalispell presented his plan Thursday to allow legislators to carry guns in the Capitol

By MATT VOLZ, Associated Press

HELENA — Proposals to loosen gun restrictions in Montana are being revived by Republican lawmakers who are undeterred by their rejection in the past and have no assurance they stand a better chance of passing during the current state legislative session.

Rep. Randy Brodehl, R-Kalispell, presented his plan Thursday to allow legislators to carry guns in the Capitol and on other state property, saying lawmakers are vulnerable if an attack is attempted on the statehouse.

The Montana Senate killed a similar bill in 2013, and a measure in 2011 was watered down to allow only security officers to carry concealed weapons.

Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Harris, R-Winnett, resubmitted a bill that was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock during the last legislative session that would allow anyone eligible to carry a weapon to conceal it without a permit.

The measure would effectively nullify the state’s concealed weapon permits, which require adult residents to apply with their sheriff’s office and complete a gun safety course.

Another bill introduced in the Senate would prohibit Montana law enforcement officers from enforcing new federal gun laws. Bullock previously vetoed a measure to disregard federal gun laws.

Brodehl and Harris say they do not know whether their bills now have a better chance of passing and escaping the governor’s veto.

Brodehl, who is also sponsoring a measure that would allow anybody to carry a weapon into post offices across the state, said he believes Republican wins in November’s elections amount to a voter mandate to reclaim people’s Second Amendment rights to bear arms and restrict government interference.

“What I see is more direction from our citizens to take back our individual rights, our local rights and our state rights,” Brodehl said.

In a separate interview, Harris reiterated Brodehl’s points and said Montana voters want to loosen gun restrictions. He added, however, that he does not know whether Bullock would look more favorably on his measure this time than he did in 2015.

“Maybe if he gets enough phone calls,” Brodehl said.

When he vetoed Harris’ bill in 2015, the governor called the concept behind letting anyone eligible to carry a concealed weapon without obtaining a permit “absurd.” Under the bill’s logic, Bullock said, drivers and pilots would not need licenses. They would only have to determine for themselves whether they were “eligible” to drive or fly, Bullock said in his veto message.

Bullock did not return a telephone message Thursday seeking comment on the resubmitted bills. Spokeswoman Ronja Abel emailed a statement that said the governor’s office is monitoring the bills and that Bullock is a defender of gun rights.

Rep. Ellie Hill Smith, D-Missoula, one of the House Judiciary Committee members who heard Brodehl’s presentation Thursday, said Montana bills have been proposed since 2011 to allow guns in hospitals, banks, bars and that all have been rejected or vetoed.

“I tell my friends back home I really think they’re more media bills — the media cares about them more than (the bills) actually do anything or get (anything) accomplished,” she said.

The House Judiciary Committee is considering the bills by Brodehl and Harris.

The committee is also looking at a measure that would allow permanent U.S. residents to apply for concealed carry permits and another that would delete outdated items such as weapons that conceal blades inside canes from the state’s list of concealed weapons.

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