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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Judge: Missoula Can Require Checks On Private Gun Sales

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox.
Eric Whitney
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox.

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana judge says the city of Missoula has the right to impose background checks on private gun sales within the city.

District Judge Robert Deschamps' ruling Thursday comes two years after the city council passed a first-in-the-state ordinance requiring background checks for gun purchases from private, unlicensed sellers.

The ordinance was never enforced because Attorney General Tim Fox issued a legal opinion that state law denies local governments any power that affects the right to keep or bear arms.

Deschamps wrote in his ruling that Fox is wrong and deprived the city of its authority. Deschamps says state law allows the city to provide any services or perform any functions not expressly prohibited by constitution, law or charter.

Fox spokesman John Barnes says the attorney general disagrees and will appeal the ruling.

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