State legislators advance pro-firearm policies ahead of coming deadline
Expanding access to guns is again a top priority for Montana Republican lawmakers. During marathon floor sessions Wednesday, both the House and Senate advanced pro-firearm policies ahead of a looming deadline.
All general policies must pass from one chamber of the Legislature to the next before end of day Friday to survive the transmittal deadline, including several that aim to protect or expand access to firearms.
Republican Rep. Jedidiah Hinkle from Belgrade says House Bill 631 will give Montanans recourse if a government entity limits their right to bear arms.
“How are you going to have the finances to take the government to court to take back your rights?” Hinkle said. “The vast majority of the people won’t because financially they cannot.”
The bill says government entities cannot limit residents’ right to bear arms, and would require that those entities cover the legal costs of any residents who bring a successful legal challenge over gun restriction.
The bill passed the House on a 40-60 vote, with some Republicans joining Democrats in voting against it.
Republican Rep. Bill Mercer of Billing says he’s worried the language of the bill is too broad, and could lead to firearms ending up in the wrong hands, like someone who’s on probation after being convicted of assault with a weapon.
“We may be upending the provisions of law that are there designed to say that there are a class of citizens that we don’t want to have access to firearms,” Mercer said.
On Wednesday, lawmakers also advanced Senate Bill 400 to extend the validity of concealed carry permits from 4 years to 5 and Senate Bill 359 to prohibit financial institutions from tracking firearm transactions. Both of those proposals received bipartisan support.
Two different bills aiming to prevent the state from doing business with companies that support gun restrictions have also advanced largely along party lines.