Despite attempts by the National Association of Gun Rights, Montana’s HB102 is a good bill and deserves the support of Second Amendment advocates in the state legislature.
Supporting HB102 is the NRA, NSSA, GOA, CCRKBA, and the MSSA (arguably the most faithful and consistent gun rights groups in Montana). The National Association of Gun Rights (NAGR) is alone in their rejection of the bill.
What is HB102?
HB102 is sponsored by Seth Berglee (R-HD58, Joliet), a longtime and enthusiastic Second Amendment advocate. The law would, should it pass, give Montana “permitless carry.”
The term, “permitless carry,” is usually denoted in other states as “Constitutional Carry,” but unfortunately the Montana Constitution does not provide explicit language that would allow this terminology so the moniker permitless carry is used to describe the bill’s ambition.
Under the law, those who may legally possess firearms will not need a concealed weapons permit to carry a concealed firearm inside the limits of a city or town. Currently, 99.4% of Montana is outside the city limits where concealed carry is already automatically allowed.
Additionally, the bill will invoke “campus carry,” meaning that the Board of Regents and the university system itself aren’t given authority to suspect the Second Amendment on their campuses. The bill does provide a few different ways that university managers may restrict firearms on campus, such as prohibiting their carry at events where alcohol is served or allowed and requiring them to be holstered when on campus.
The bill removes almost all restrictions regarding where a concealed weapons permit may be used, excluding prisons and jails, airport terminals (beyond TSA checkpoints) and on private property (should the private property owner wish to disallow firearms).
The latter details – that concealed carry will remain disallowed in prisons, jails, airport terminals, private property (upon the wishes of the property owner) and limitations might apply where alcohol is being served in certain circumstances – is what earned it the ire of the National Association of Gun Rights.
Caution Concerning the NAGR
The National Association of Gun Rights is dubious as an organization and has repeatedly used the success of the Montana Shooting Sports Association to solicit fundraising on their own behalf. Although there is nothing in the law preventing an organization like NAGR from parasitically attaching itself to the apron strings of gun groups that are actually helping to get pro-gun bills passed in the state legislature, it appears to the Big Sky Public Policy Institute that NAGR is attempting to water-down the base of pro-gun giving in Montana and scuttle rather than help these bills be passed.
The Big Sky Public Policy Institute affirms the words of MSSA President Gary Marbut, who wrote to his supporters in an email, “NAGR has launched a major fundraising campaign claiming that MSSA’s HB 102 has been highjacked by unspecified anti-gun forces and, to rescue it, NAGR is desperate for donations. That’s a lie, of course. HB 102 has NOT been highjacked, although NAGR does seem desperate. This lie is all about fundraising for NAGR, its only mission (they only pretend to care about the RKBA because they’ve learned they can get fearful gun owners to part with bucks with a panicky claim that the RKBA sky is falling).”
We should reject the financially-driven lobbying for or against bills perpetrated as fundraising boondoggles and instead focus on evaluating the bills fairly and objectively. Additionally, it should be noted that NAGR has not presented a comparable alternative or advanced similar pro-gun bills, leading many to rightfully consider what they hope to accomplish by muckraking a mostly-good bill.
Whereas the Big Sky Public Policy Institute will not support an incremental approach to ending abortion (we believe such is morally inappropriate and has shown itself ineffective at stopping abortion) and prefer immediate abolition, the gun-rights debate has shown significant progress through taking incremental steps in defense of our Second Amendment liberties.
Overall, HB102 is a good bill that progresses a pro-Second Amendment agenda in Montana and should be supported by freedom-loving legislators.