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Montana sheriffs support current gun laws

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Montana has some of the least-restrictive gun laws in America, which is good. Carrying firearms in Montana is free of many restrictions unless the firearm is concealed. Even Montana’s concealed firearm laws are some of the least restrictive in the nation, which is also good.

The common-sense laws we have are intended to preserve the peace in our cities and towns. They are firmly grounded in the Montana Constitution, which states:

"Article II. Declaration of Rights. Section 12. Right to bear arms. The right of any person to keep or bear arms in defense of his own home, person, and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall not be called in question, but nothing herein contained shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons."

A person in Montana may carry a concealed firearm while they are hunting, fishing, hiking, ranching, or on their own property, and the list continues. However, when they enter a city or town, a permit from the county sheriff is required to carry a concealed firearm. Montana’s current laws strike an equitable balance between citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights with as few limitations as possible while also protecting public safety.

When applying for a concealed weapon permit, the applicant is subject to a more thorough background check than the background check done when purchasing a firearm. Your sheriff checks to ensure the person is not wanted for a crime, a past felon, or restricted from carrying firearms for other reasons. The sheriff may deny an applicant a permit to carry a concealed weapon if the sheriff has reasonable cause to believe that the applicant is mentally ill, mentally disordered or mentally disabled, or otherwise may be a threat to the peace and good order of the community to the extent that the applicant should not be allowed to carry a concealed weapon. At the time an application is denied, the sheriff shall, unless the applicant is the subject of an active criminal investigation, give the applicant a written statement of the reasonable cause upon which the denial is based. Prior to issuing a permit, the sheriff may require the applicant to demonstrate some familiarity/safety with firearms. If these criteria are met, the sheriff must issue a concealed weapon permit.

A concealed weapon permit entitles a person to carry a concealed weapon, skip the background check when purchasing a firearm, and carry concealed in states with which Montana has reciprocity. According to the Montana Department of Justice, a Montana concealed weapon permit is also valid in 43 other states.

In the 2013 and 2015 legislative sessions, Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed bills that would allow any person legally allowed to possess a firearm to carry a concealed weapon in a city or town without a permit. For example, House Bill 304 in 2013 would have effectively eliminated Montana's concealed weapon permitting process by allowing anyone eligible to possess a handgun to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. The measure would have allowed individuals to decide whether they are eligible to carry a concealed weapon.

In fact, we asked Bullock to veto HB 304 and others like it because we strongly believe the current law provides an additional necessary check to ensure public safety when carrying a concealed weapon in Montana’s cities and towns.

While we, as a group, do not support or endorse any political candidate, we do wish to set the record straight. Sheriffs support the existing permit requirements for concealed weapon permits, as a matter of public safety. Opposing unrestricted concealed carrying of weapons by anyone, anywhere, does not equate to opposing the Second Amendment.

The undersigned elected sheriffs in the state of Montana support the Second Amendment. We also support the existing permit requirements for concealed weapon permits as a matter of public safety. 

This opinion is signed by the following county sheriffs in Montana: Sheriff Keith Van Setten, Teton County; Sheriff Tony Harbaugh, Custer County; Sheriff Brian Gootkin, Gallatin County; Sheriff Chris Hoffman, Ravalli County; Sheriff Leo Dutton, Lewis and Clark County; Sheriff Chuck Curry, Flathead County; Sheriff Mike Linder, Yellowstone County; Sheriff Donna Whitt, Toole County; Sheriff Dan Tronrud, Sweet Grass County; Sheriff Bob Edwards, Cascade County; Sheriff Frank Kluesner, Beaverhead County; Sheriff Glenn Huestis, Blaine County; Sheriff Wynn Meehan, Broadwater County; Sheriff Troy Eades, Fergus County; Sheriff Vern Burdick, Chouteau County; Sheriff Josh McQuillan, Carbon County; Sheriff T.J. McDermott, Missoula County; and Sheriff Craig Doolittle, Jefferson County.

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