HELENA - Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed a gun-rights bill Tuesday that would allow concealed carry without a permit in Montana cities, one of 15 vetoes Schweitzer issued as he also struck down Republican medical malpractice overhaul and an anti-bison measure.
The governor has outright vetoed more than 60 bills so far, with dozens more awaiting action since lawmakers adjourned late last month. The governor has also issued amendatory or line-item vetoes on more than 40 other bills.
Ardent gun advocates considered House Bill 271 the most important of their efforts this session.
It would have let anyone carry concealed without a permit in cities if they otherwise would be qualified to get a permit. Currently its legal to carry concealed without a permit in most parts of the state, but not in urban areas.
But Schweitzer, an outspoken gun advocate in his own way, said it went too far by letting people determine themselves if they are eligible to carry without a background check.
"This allows the individual to make his or her own eligibility determination and deprives law enforcement of the opportunity to consider whether the person is a threat to the community," Schweitzer said. "Obviously, this bill would greatly imperil the work and safety of Montana's lawmen, including sheriffs and highway patrolmen. Under current law, Montana's sheriffs are responsible for issuing concealed weapon permits. This is as it should be."
Gun advocates took the news hard.
"I am disappointed that the governor thinks that people that live inside city limits ought to be treated as second-class citizens and ought to be treated differently than their cousins that live outside city limits," said Gary Marbut, with the Montana Shooting Sports Association. "It also calls into questions the governor's long-time claim that he is pro-gun."
The Democratic governor on Tuesday also vetoed a Republican measure making it more difficult to sue for medical malpractice, a proposal that Republicans hoped would lead to lower insurance costs for doctors and perhaps lower costs for patients. Opponents argued it created too much harm for those seriously hurt by poor medical care.
Another vetoed bill would have made it harder for the state to move wild bison to a newly acquired wildlife management area.