HELENA – Gov. Steve Bullock took action Thursday on several gun measures, including vetoes of a bill that would have prohibited local and state police from enforcing any federal gun bans and another that would have allowed silencers when hunting wolves.
House Bill 302 was backed by gun advocates who argued the state should be ready in case Congress enacts a gun ban. They said the measure would also send a strong signal that Montana opposes gun bans.
But Bullock wrote in his Thursday veto message that it does not appear Congress will ban assault weapons. The Democrat called the Legislature’s bill “unnecessary political theater.”
He added that if House Bill 302 were used as intended, it would turn police into criminals for not cooperating with federal officers, as they are required to do. He said the officers take oaths to enforce all laws.
“I am and always have been a staunch supporter of our Second Amendment rights,” Bullock wrote. “We have a strong tradition in Montana of gun ownership, hunting and participation in shooting sports. I believe that is an important tradition to preserve.”
The veto will go back to the Legislature, which can attempt to override the veto with two-thirds support in each chamber. The bill, originally advanced mostly along party lines, fell short of that level of support when it originally cleared the Legislature earlier this month.
Bullock also vetoed a bill that would allow wolf hunters to use silencers on their rifles.
Supporters of House Bill 27 argued that the silencers only suppress the sound to make hunting less harmful on the ears, and will ensure that wolf hunting is less disturbing to neighbors.
But Bullock wrote in his veto message that the Legislature has already passed a bill that he believes will be effective in improving the wolf hunt, such as by allowing hunters to obtain multiple wolf tags. And he said suppressors make it harder to enforce hunting rules.
“I do not see the need for suppressed weapons for wolf hunting. I believe most Montanans would agree,” Bullock wrote.
The governor also signed a bill Thursday sought by gun advocates that would make the state’s list of concealed weapon permit holders confidential.
Gun advocates in the Legislature tried to revive another issue they have struggled to advance through both chambers.
Senate Republicans tried to push through an amended version of Senate Bill 133 that allowed people to conceal carry in public places.
The original version of the bill allowed only public defenders to conceal carry in public buildings, but it was expanded to allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry a weapon into public buildings.
Opponents argued it was a backdoor approach to package a failed idea into the measure, which was sent to a conference committee for the House and Senate to discuss differences.
Another concealed weapons measure, that would allow anyone to carry concealed without a permit if they were otherwise qualified to get a permit, has cleared both chambers and will formally be sent to Bullock’s desk soon.
Bullock has so far vetoed four bills this session. On Thursday, he also sent two bills back to the Legislature with suggested changes, known as amendatory vetoes.