Montana Attorney General Tim Fox issued a news release on Thursday afternoon addressing the legality of the proposed expanded background check ordinance from the Missoula City Council. 

Proponents have claimed that the ordinance would not violate existing state statutes, however, Attorney General Fox disagrees. His statement reads:

“Contrary to the opinion of the City Attorney, whom I respect, I believe that Missoula’s proposed gun control ordinance is prohibited by state law and likely violates our constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”

In a recent story on Newstalk KGVO.com, Jon King reported:

Opponents say that such an ordinance would conflict with state law and cite MCA 45-8-351 which reads:

45-8-351. Restriction on local government regulation of firearms. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2), a county, city, town, consolidated local government, or other local government unit may not prohibit, register, tax, license, or regulate the purchase, sale or other transfer (including delay in purchase, sale, or other transfer), ownership, possession, transportation, use, or unconcealed carrying of any weapon, including a rifle, shotgun, handgun, or concealed handgun.

 

(2) (a) For public safety purposes, a city or town may regulate the discharge of rifles, shotguns, and handguns. A county, city, town, consolidated local government, or other local government unit has power to prevent and suppress the carrying of concealed or unconcealed weapons to a public assembly, publicly owned building, park under its jurisdiction, or school, and the possession of firearms by convicted felons, adjudicated mental incompetents, illegal aliens, and minors.

 

(b) Nothing contained in this section allows any government to prohibit the legitimate display of firearms at shows or other public occasions by collectors and others or to prohibit the legitimate transportation of firearms through any jurisdiction, whether in airports or otherwise.

 

(c) A local ordinance enacted pursuant to this section may not prohibit a legislative security officer who has been issued a concealed weapon permit from carrying a concealed weapon in the state capitol as provided in 45-8-317.

 

City Councilman Bryan Von Lossberg directs citizens to the city attorney and said the focus needs to be on what a subsection of that law says.

"In subsection two, it expressly states that a city has the power to prevent and suppress the possession of firearms by convicted felons, those adjudicated for mental incompetence, illegal aliens and minors," von Lossberg said. "It certainly is a point of controversy, and I'm not an attorney."

A public hearing before the full city council is expected to occur on October 19th.

Senator Steve Daines and U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke concurred with Fox's comments, and addressed letters to the Missoula City Council, which can be read here.

 “We write to express our strong concerns with the Missoula City Council Public Safety and Health Committee’s substantial intrusion into the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners through its proposed expansion of regulations on private firearm transfers,” Daines and Zinke wrote. “While we value local decision making, it is essential that policies at every level of government uphold the rights granted to all Americans under the U.S. Constitution. Therefore we feel obligated on this rare occasion to express our opposition to the misguided ordinance, which would create unnecessary burdens on law-abiding Montanans while proving ineffective in preventing violent crime.”