HELENA They may not agree on much, but when it comes to guns and gun rights, Republican Sen. Conrad Burns and his Democratic challenger Jon Tester seem to have found some enthusiastically shared common ground.
Both men are gun owners and say they have fired guns in the last month - Tester a Winchester .30-.30 and Burns a .30-06.
Both men say they oppose any kind of gun control and they are willing to talk about what, exactly, that means to them.
Burns: "I support the Second Amendment. Period."
Tester: "I believe in our Second Amendment freedoms and the right of every law-abiding American to keep and bear arms."
Both Tester and Burns said they oppose a ban on guns in the nation's capitol. Burns said he opposed a ban on any kind of ammunition, a stance Tester has also voiced. Tester said he opposed the Brady Bill - a federal law that requires a background check for everyone buying a handgun.
Tester said he would oppose any efforts to bring back bans on assault weapons.
Both men also said they favored doing away with a 1986-passed cap on the number of fully-automatic weapons available for sale. At that time, Congress limited the number of fully-automatic guns - guns that as long as the trigger is depressed, bullets will fire - to those in circulation in 1986. Since then, the price of these limited weapons has gone up. However, civilian police forces are exempt from the cap and recently Congress allowed certain military contractors to be exempt from the 1986 cap, too.
Asked if he favored lifting the cap, Burns was blunt in his opposition to the law.
"I oppose (it) because it's one more infringement on our Second Amendment rights," he said. "Regardless of the purpose of the law, it's one more step by anti-gun advocates to disarm law-abiding citizens."
Tester said he favored repealing the law and would consider "any (other) piece of legislation that will protect our Second Amendment rights and help fight the war on terror."
Currently, people who buy guns from registered federal firearms dealers - like gun or sporting goods stores - fill out paperwork that the federal government keeps.
Both men say they oppose the government keeping those papers as a first step toward a national gun registry.
On the subject of concealed weapons, Tester said he supports a national law to allow Americans to carry concealed weapons. In Montana, concealed weapons are already legal. Burns said he supported allowing people in states that already have a concealed weapons law to carry their concealed weapons in any other state that has such a law.
Both men have received high marks from the National Rifle Association, with Burns snagging an A-plus and Tester getting an A. The group gave its endorsement to Burns, in part, said Autumn Fogg, an NRA spokeswoman, because he has a long track record of standing up for gun rights at the national level.
Burns made a clean sweep of gun endorsements, picking up the endorsement from the national Gun Owners of America and Montana's leading gun group, the Montana Shooting Sports Association.
Gary Marbut, head of the MSSA, said he gave Burns the endorsement because Tester did not respond to the group's candidate questions.