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Author Topic: MSSA Legislative Agenda for the 2012 Legislative Session  (Read 4356 times)

Basil Fishbone

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MSSA Legislative Agenda for the 2012 Legislative Session
« on: December 05, 2012, 08:00:23 pm »

Dear MSSA Friends,

The Montana 2013 legislative Session if fast approaching, and once again MSSA has an aggressive agenda of pro-gun and pro-hunting bills to introduce and get passed.


The items on MSSA's Legislative Agenda are pasted below.  Please study them so you are familiar with them.  Please redistribute this email to all your pro-gun friends.

IMPORTANT:  MSSA and the NRA will co-host a Legislative Reception at the Colonial Inn in Helena on Thursday, January 10th, from 5:30 to 8 PM.  Please plan to be there, if you possibly can.  This will be your opportunity to buttonhole legislators to discuss these items on MSSA's Legislative Agenda.  I will conduct a prior briefing session for you about MSSA's Legislative Agenda items at the Colonial from 3:00 to 4:30 PM on January 10th.  So, plan to come early to catch this briefing, so you will be well-informed to discuss these items with legislators during the following Legislative Reception.

One more issue:  The century-old Western Montana Fish and Game Association owns and operates the well-developed Deer Creek Shooting Center near Missoula.  The WMFGA was recently hit with a whopping increase in property taxes, from $246/year to about $7,500/year.  In response, I have drafted and found a legislative sponsor for a bill to flat exempt shooting ranges from property taxes.  Hey, all the shooting ranges I know of in Montana are essentially non-profit community service organizations, not commercial enterprises.  I need range-operating clubs to be prepared to support this bill when it is introduced in January, AND I need to hear from officers of range-operating organizations about how their range is doing in re property taxes.

So, please, study the issues below, plan to attend the Legislative Reception and prior briefing session at the Colonial Inn in Helena on 1/10, and get me in touch with shooting range operators about their property tax situation.

Thanks loads,

Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Association
author, Gun Laws of Montana





1.  Harmonizing concealed weapon permit (CWP) requirements.  Since 1991, a CWP has not been required for a law-abiding person to carry a concealed weapon in 99.4% of Montana - outside the limits of cities or towns.  With over a decade of experience that not requiring CWPs for nearly all of Montana has not created any problems, we propose a bill to harmonize the law so a permit will no longer be required for a law abiding person to carry a concealed weapon in the remaining small part of Montana, inside cities and towns.  We intend to leave the permitting process in place, so citizens who desire them may still obtain CWPs for travel to other states that recognize Montana CWPs, and for firearm purchases at gun stores under the federal Brady Law.  This change would exclude criminals from applicability - it would still be illegal for criminals to carry concealed weapons.  It would also close a dump truck-sized loophole in existing law that allows people to carry firearms openly in the "prohibited places" of bars, banks and public buildings, but would exempt law enforcement personnel and actual CWP-holders from "prohibited places" restrictions.

2.  Smokeless powder and primer production.  There is a serious threat to our right to bear arms because of narrow, monolithic and federally-controlled manufacture of essential ammunition components, smokeless powder (propellant), primers and cartridge brass.  For example, there are only two manufacturers of smokeless powder in the U.S., one plant owned by defense contractor General Dynamics and another owned by defense contractor Alliant Systems (ATK).  All other smokeless powder used in the U.S. is imported, and subject to immediate and arbitrary import restrictions.  And, General Dynamics and Alliant Systems are subject to a standard condition of military contracts that 100% of their production may be commandeered for military use at any time.  Without ammunition, our firearms and our right to bear ammunition are worth nothing.  We propose certain incentives to encourage small-scale production of ammunition components in Montana.  That model includes offering liability protection to future producers, providing that such producers qualify for existing state assistance with financing, and will include a 20-year tax amnesty from start of business, which would give up zero current tax income to the state but would provide jobs for Montana.

3. Shooting range funding.  Montana began using some hunter license money to make matching grants to develop shooting ranges in 1989.  The program to build safe and suitable places for Montana people to shoot was put into state law in 1999, as the Shooting Range Development Program (SRDP).  The funds for this program are approved each legislative session in the appropriations process for the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks budget.  There are no general tax revenues used for this program, only the money hunters pay for licenses.  The 2007 Legislature appropriated $1,000,000 for the SRDP.  $600,000 was appropriated in 2009, and about $650,000 in 2011.  We ask that $1,000,000 be appropriated to the SRDP in the 2013 legislative session, regardless of any FWP opposition to that level of funding.

4. Overreaction to firearms locked in student vehicles in school parking lots.  An underreported tragedy in Montana is the number of students who have been disciplined, many expelled, for forgetting that their hunting rifle was locked in their vehicle, usually from a weekend hunt.  When such a condition occurs in a school parking lot, ill-informed administrators universally tell reviewing school boards that they have no choice but to expel offending students because of compelling federal law.  However, unknown to these poorly-informed (or perhaps over-paid) administrators, federal law on the subject specifically excludes from consideration any firearm locked in a vehicle in a school parking lot.  About 450 Montana high school students have been expelled, and had their academic aspirations ruined for life, over this issue.  We propose a bill to clarify for uninformed administrators and misinformed school boards that firearms locked in a student vehicle does not mandate expulsion.  This bill would NOT deprive school boards of tools to deal with genuine safety problems, but would clarify that firearms locked in vehicles do NOT MANDATE student expulsion.

5.  Allow safe travel to work and employee property right inside private vehicles.  Employees have a property right to what they choose to carry in their vehicles, whether Bibles, newspapers, or firearms.  Employees also have a constitutional right to be equipped to provide for their own personal protection when traveling to and from work.  However, many private employers have made it a termination offense for an employee to have a firearm locked in the employee's vehicle if that vehicle is parked in a company parking lot.  Such employers assume no responsibility for employee safety during travel to and from work.  We propose that employers be prohibited from firing employees only because that employee has a firearm locked in a privately owned vehicle in a company parking lot.  This bill would require that any such firearms also be out of sight from outside the vehicle.

6.  Self defense legal costs.  A few prosecutors use the tactic of "throwing the book" at persons accused in order to make legal defense costs so unaffordable that the accused has no choice but to plead guilty to some prosecutor-approved charges.  We propose that, in cases where self defense is alleged, prosecutors must pay the legal defense costs associated with any charges that are dropped, dismissed, or for which the accused is found not guilty.

7.  Disorderly conduct - fixing bad law.  The existing disorderly conduct statute in Montana is badly written because it makes it a potential crime for a person to discharge a firearm, except at an established shooting range.  While inappropriate prosecutions under this existing law have not been a problem in Montana, it is susceptible to abuse and should be repaired.  Besides, a person could lose their constitutional right to keep and bear arms for life if convicted of this perceived "gun crime."  This bill would simply strike the offense of firing firearms from the disorderly conduct statute.

8.  Sheriffs First - Law Enforcement Cooperation.  Many Montanans, both citizens and people in public office, are concerned about the lack of accountability of federal officers conducting law enforcement operations in Montana.  In Montana, we know the county sheriff and he is elected and accountable locally.  We believe the sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in the county, and ought to have the tools to implement that status.  MSSA will offer a bill to require federal officers to obtain the written permission of the local sheriff before conducting an arrest, search, or seizure in the sheriff’s county.  There are exceptions for federal reservations, Border Patrol, Immigration and Naturalization Service, close pursuit, when a federal officer witnesses a crime that requires an immediate response, if the sheriff or his personnel are under investigation, and other necessary exceptions.  This bill was passed by the Legislature in 1995, but was vetoed by the Governor.  You may read the bill at:

9.  When police may take firearms and how long they may keep them.  There are no clear directions to law enforcement in current Montana law about under what circumstances law enforcement officers may disarm citizens, and how long they may keep guns taken.  This leaves it up to the discretion of individual officers to make this call.  A few officers abuse this discretion by insisting on disarming every armed citizen they encounter - treating citizens like criminals.  The right to bear arms the people have reserved to themselves at Article II, Section 12 of the Montana Constitution does NOT say "except when in the presence of a law enforcement officer."  Rather, the Constitution says the right to bear arms "shall not be called into question …"  We propose legislation to establish some clear but workable rules for under what circumstances and for how long law enforcement officers may disarm citizens.

10.  University system gun bans.  The people of Montana have reserved from government interference the right to keep or bear arms in the Montana Constitution.  The Montana university system is a government entity.  The Montana Constitution gives the Board of Regents broad authority to manage the affairs of the U. system, but it gives the Board NO authority whatsoever to suspend, amend or abolish the Constitution and the rights the people have reserved to themselves from government interference.  We propose a bill that withdraws all authority from the Board of Regents to restrict firearms on U. system campuses, and then gives back to the U. system narrowly-tailored authority to adopt certain restrictions that are sensible and also defensible under recent federal (Heller and McDonald) and state (Colorado, Oregon and Utah) court cases.

11.  Suppressors illegal for poaching.  Firearm suppressors do not "silence" firearms, but suppress somewhat the noise of the muzzle blast.  They do nothing to attenuate the loud crack of the sonic boom as a bullet breaks the sound barrier all along its flight path.  Currently, firearm suppressors are illegal for hunting.  FWP argues this is necessary for them to be able to catch criminals who poach.  We propose a bill to make use of suppressors illegal for poaching only, but not for general hunting.  Some argue that use of suppressors for hunting is not "fair chase," because the hunted animal would not hear the muzzle blast from a hunter's rifle.  This argument ignores physics - that a rifle bullet arrives before the sound of the muzzle blast because the bullet flies faster than the speed of sound.  It ignores that a missed shot will startle the game animal with the nearby sonic boom before any sound of muzzle blast arrives.  Finally, it ignores the common acceptance of "fair chase" hunting with absolutely silent arrows during archery season.

12.  Controlling wolves.  Federally-fostered wolves have become a serious problem in Montana.  They are decimating Montana's valuable herds of huntable game, killing or impacting an unacceptable amount of livestock in Montana's already stressed agricultural community, and are carrying diseases that may cause serious human and livestock health problems.  We propose again a bill for Montana to take a much more aggressive posture in managing and controlling wolves.

13.  Revise fish and game enforcement laws.  Montana game laws are very different in their application and enforcement than similar criminal laws in Montana.  We propose to adjust Montana fish and game laws so they conform generally to the standards applied in all other criminal matters in Montana.

14.  Concealed weapon permit list private.  Montana people have reserved the right to privacy to themselves in the Montana Constitution.  Notwithstanding this restriction, the Montana Department of Justice has been releasing the names of about 30,000 Montanans who hold or have held concealed weapon permits.  This release includes to the Billings Gazette, and others.  In other states, newspapers have published such lists, making CWP-holders' residences focused targets for burglars seeking guns for crime.  We propose a bill to prevent release of CWP-holder names except for law enforcement purposes.

15.  BB-guns and air rifles not "firearms."  Some entities in Montana restrict BB-guns and air rifles as if they were firearms.  We propose to define firearms as different than BB-guns and air rifles, and also to prevent restrictions placed on BB-guns and air rifles as if they were firearms.

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