11 May An Open Letter to Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer
I would urge you to reconsider your recent veto of HB271, “AN ACT REVISING THE LAW RELATED TO THE OFFENSE OF CARRYING A CONCEALED WEAPON; PROVIDING THAT THE LAW DOES NOT APPLY TO A PERSON WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO POSSESS A HANDGUN UNDER STATE OR FEDERAL LAW; AND AMENDING SECTION 45-8-317, MCA.”
As you wrote, House Bill 271 would allow anyone “eligible to possess a handgun under state or federal law” to carry a concealed weapon, without a permit. You fail to note, however, that carrying a concealed weapon without a permit is already legally permitted in much of the state: Montana’s concealed carry laws apply within the official boundaries of a city or town or the confines of a logging, lumbering, mining or railroad camp. In these cases, law enforcement is already deprived of the opportunity to make any determination regarding the suitability of responsible adults to make their own decisions regarding firearms.
Furthermore, I find the assertion that this bill would “greatly imperil the work and safety of Montana’s lawmen” juvenile and ridiculous. Indeed, under current law, county sheriffs are responsible for issuing concealed weapons permits, and it is unsurprising that they and the associations which represent them would oppose efforts to cede this authority. However, those who would imperil the work and safety of Montana’s lawmen are unlikely to be overly concerned with laws regarding the carrying of concealed weapons. This bill would not put guns into the hands of dangerous scofflaws: such people will choose to carry regardless of the laws in place.
HB 217 would not, as you say, remove the Sheriff’s authority and discretion to issue or deny concealed weapons permits. Under Montana Code Annotated 45-8-321, county Sheriffs retain their authority to issue permits to carry concealed weapons. Nor does HB 217 dismantle any “reasonable regulations” or void Montana’s reciprocity agreements with other states that recognize concealed carry permits, or void the laws that allow Montana permit-holders to forgo the background checks required for firearms purchases. As is the case in Arizona and Alaska, Montana would continue to issue permits to carry concealed weapons specifically for purposes of continuing Montana CCW permit holders to enjoy the benefits of reciprocity and to continue to forgo background checks as they do now. These permits would be issued by county Sheriffs, as they are now. In fact, HB 217 leaves 45-8-321 completely unchanged!
In closing, you urge the sponsors of the bill to “consider the absurdity of the standard set forth in HB 217.” This standard does not, would not and should not apply to driver’s licenses, pilot’s licenses, building permits, or hunting licenses. Nor is the standard of personal responsibility ‘absurd.’ What is absurd is your lack of understanding of the relationship between HB 217 and 45-8-321, your blatantly false statement regarding the peril of Montana’s lawmen, and the false equivalence you draw between HB 217 and driver’s licenses.
Governor Schweitzer, you disappoint me, and you have lost my support forever.