Celebrating Gun Rights

The first full week of March is Montana Right to Keep and Bear Arms Week

By Dave Skinner

Since 1991, the first full week of March (6 through 12) is Montana Right to Keep and Bear Arms Week. Party time, right?

On the national level, there’s plenty to celebrate, mainly the fact that Hillary Clinton isn’t president. She won’t be vetoing any of the new pro-gun bills Congress is now considering, nor will she be packing the U.S. Supreme Court with justices who support only part of the Bill of Rights. I’ll drink to that!

How about at the state level? Well, here’s a hint: Gov. Steve Bullock (D) has vetoed his first two bills of the session, and yep, they’re pro-gun bills.

The first, HB 262, sponsored by Kalispell’s Randy Brodehl (R), would allow citizens to carry firearms into U.S. Post Offices. Lots of Americans, not just Montanans, get their mail at the post office, and it’s a needless hassle to unpack your iron, lock it in the wagon, then unlock and re-holster. Why not let honest citizens discreetly grab and go, especially at odd, dark hours?

Well, there’s “federal supremacy.” States normally cannot override federal laws, unless the law infringes a federal constitutional right. Wow, I’m sure glad Montana avoided a U.S. Supreme Court case about that, you bet.

Bullock also shot down HB 246, sponsored by Bill Harris (R-Winnett), which would allow concealed carry without a permit (legal in Montana outside city limits, federal buildings, schools, banks and establishments that sell booze), the third session in a row that Bullock has vetoed Rep. Harris’s bill.

Lip-serving “Second Amendment rights,” the governor slammed HB 246 as “an absurd concept that threatens the safety of our communities by not providing for the basic fundamentals of gun safety or mental health screening.”

Thing is, the “basic fundamentals” of gun safety are pretty much a birthright in Montana.

As for mental health, the federal NICS background check system already helps ensure gun owners are law abiding and further, not legally adjudicated as nuts.

Furthermore, despite allegations otherwise, Rep. Harris’s bill wouldn’t affect Montana’s concealed carry permits at all. If you want to carry in other states, you must have a Montana permit to enjoy “reciprocity” rights in those states.

But what about being able to pocket a pistol once in a great while, say that once a year you’re out late at some seedy gas station and there are scary-looking scruffs hanging about giving you the stink eye? Yes – I do profile, thanks.

Another gun bill was HB 385 from Seth Berglee (R-Joliet), which would have allowed full-time school employees with peace officer training (or equivalent proficiency acceptable to local law enforcement) to carry a concealed firearm in schools. That died on the House floor thanks to many Republican cross-overs. I can understand that, as passage could jump-start the irrational “Sandy Hook” debate, in a state where schools are pretty darn safe. Maybe later.

Finally, there’s HB 494, also from Rep. Berglee. This would allow CCW holders to carry in liquor-licensed restaurants “where alcohol is not the chief item of sale,” but not bars. Overall, I think the liquor-license restriction is dumb – under Montana law, packing heat “while under the influence of an intoxicating substance” gets you 6 months in the slam, $500 fine – already illegal everywhere, just like drunken driving.

Everyone has witnessed how designated drivers (in bars, even) have a good effect upon public safety. What if the presence of “designated protectors,” sober, alert good guys (or gals) with a concealed gun somewhere near, became common?

I’m OK with that.

Who isn’t? Well, the votes on just these four bills tell the tale: While plenty of Republicans “crossed over” to varying degrees, Montana House and Senate Democrats voted as a near-monolith against all four bills at nearly every point in the process. Studying the vote tallies, I could find only three total Democratic “crossover” votes cast in favor of gun rights (on HB 494). Every other recorded Democratic vote was a “no.”

So at the state level, thanks to progressive legislators, Keep and Bear Arms Week won’t present much worth celebrating – instead, a reminder that our elected officials are always worth our closest attention.

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