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If federal gun laws mirrored Butte-Silver Bow's concealed-weapon permitting process, Butte-Silver Bow County Undersheriff George Skuletich said Monday, the changes to federal gun laws would not be "gun control" but rather controlling who buys guns.

The survivors of the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have been speaking out since the incident, demanding that Congress enact stricter gun laws. And more than 22,000 students have signed a petition vowing to walk out of schools at 10 a.m. on April 20, which is the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 that took the lives of 13 and wounded more than 20 in Littleton, Colorado.

Skuletich said that when permitting an applicant for a concealed weapon, the county checks the federal system, but goes further, checking the person’s criminal background, as well as the county’s internal system to see if the local police have dealt with the potential concealed gun carrier in the past.

This enables the county to determine if the person applying for a permit has had a mental health issue or has been violent. 

The county has the right to deny permits to anyone who is deemed not fit to carry a concealed weapon, and occasionally does.

That person then has the right to take B-SB Police to District Court to appeal the decision. Skuletich said no one has ever appealed a denial to permit a concealed weapon in the approximately 15 years he’s been involved in the county’s permitting process.

“We don’t deny that many,” Skuletich said. “About 95 percent of the people who put in for them pass the background checks. But every once in a while, we do deny (one).”

To try to prevent such a tragedy happening here, B-SB Police hold active shooter drills at Butte Public Schools, Skuletich said.  

Skuletich said there should be limits on age when a person can buy a gun. Even children younger than 18 years old can buy a rifle, but a person has to be 21 to buy a pistol, he said. 

"They should have to be 21 (to buy a rifle)," he said.

The alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz, 19, in last week's Florida shooting will likely plead guilty to 17 counts of premeditated murder to avoid the death penalty, according to various news sources. More than a dozen were injured.  Of the 17 who were killed, 14 were students, 3 were adults. The youngest was 14 years old.

Cruz, who allegedly confessed to police, used a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, which he bought legally. Police have found “disturbing” social media posts Cruz made prior to the event. Cruz reportedly recently lost both his father and mother.

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Nat'l Resources / General Reporter

Environmental and natural resources reporter for the Montana Standard.

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