Like so many Montanans, I grew up with a rifle in one hand and a shotgun in the other. I converted my love of shooting into a 25-year career in the firearms industry. I helped build an iconic international gun company. I sold millions of guns. I’ve won awards, even been a finalist for the “Firearms Industry Person of the Year,” which is the industry’s highest honor. It’s an award that has also been bestowed on firearms royalty like Charlton Heston and Bill Ruger.
I’ve got a long history with guns, but I never forgot the lessons that my father taught me. “Be safe, be responsible, guns can take a life in an instant.”
As a boy I learned the rules in hunter’s safety class and I followed the mandated safety procedures before every single gun industry event. HB 102 does away with this kind of common sense. If enacted, people without any permit could carry concealed guns into bars and college campuses across our state. Of course the sponsors of the bill mandate that permits are required around their offices in Helena, but not for the rest of us. Safety is important, but I guess it’s only important for them.
I know first hand that we need to minimize the likelihood of violence, not increase it. This spring my young son was attacked in Kalispell by armed “Second Amendment Patriots” at a local peaceful demonstration. They used their guns to frighten and intimidate. I stepped in to defend my son and it slowly diffused, but the situation could have gone very wrong. I shudder to think what might have happened if alcohol or the emotion of late-night college parties would have been involved.
I am among the many Montanans who own and appreciate guns, but I also know that citizens of our state understand we must also be advocates for responsibility. Montana boasts of a wonderful common sense and deep down all of us know that protecting our rights also means avoiding extremist policies that only increase the likelihood of bloodshed. Montana House Bill 102 will not make us safer. It is not a pro gun bill. It is an anti-responsibility bill.
I believe strongly in the second amendment, I own plenty of guns, I shoot with my boys every chance I get and I believe in the right to protect my family. But I also believe in responsibility, safety, training and common sense. This bill is the equivalent of waving flames over open gasoline; the sort of action every ranch kid like me knows is reckless. Permitless concealed carry, guns on college campuses and in bars? These are policies that make gun tragedy more likely and there is nothing patriotic about that.
Ryan Busse spent 25 years in the firearms industry. Busse has also served as board chair for Montana Conservation Voters and as North American Board Chair for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. He lives in Kalispell.
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