Last year, Montanans went to the polls and voted for a ballot initiative that made gun laws uniform throughout Montana so that gun owners would always know what is legal and what isn't — regardless if they were in Billings or Ismay. The passing of that initiative, LR-130, made clear Montanans know what’s right for their state. Montana has a long and rich firearm tradition. Montanans know firearms, they understand firearms, and they’re safe and responsible with their firearms. In fact, they’re among the most responsible and law-abiding firearm owners in the country. Therefore, it is only appropriate that the next step be constitutional carry.
HB 102 would allow law-abiding Montana gun owners to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense throughout the state without written authorization from the government. Currently, constitutional carry is the law in 99.4 percent of Montana — that leaves .6 percent of the state having different rules than the rest. It’s confusing, and it will easily ensnare an otherwise law-abiding individual who doesn’t realize they’ve passed into a no-carry zone. This has to change, and that’s what HB 102 will do. If a person is legally allowed to carry a concealed firearm in the vast majority of Montana, they should be allowed to carry throughout the entire state. It’s logical: residents won’t behave like criminals because they’ve crossed an arbitrary line. If a person is law-abiding in 99.4 percent of the state, why wouldn’t they remain law-abiding in the other 0.6%?
Sixteen states – Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming – already allow gun owners to carry firearms without a government-issued permit. Are our neighbors to the east and south somehow more trustworthy than us?
The gun control crowd is engaging in howling hysterics claiming this is a bad idea. But, their claims are exaggerations and sometimes outright lies. Lest we forget, they also claimed more than 40 years ago that conceal carry would result in High Noon like gun duels in the streets. One often repeated bogus claim is that constitutional carry allows bad guys to carry firearms That’s false. HB 102 changes nothing about who can own and carry a firearm and who can’t. If a person is not allowed to possess a firearm, then that person is not allowed to carry one. HB 102 changes nothing about that fact.
Another claim of the gun control lobby is that bills like HB 102 wipe out private property rights. That’s a lie, too. Every homeowner or business owner has the right to maintain control over what rules they want established in their home or place of business. If they want people to be able to exercise their Second Amendment rights on their property, they can allow that. If they would prefer folks don’t carry firearms on their property, they can prohibit them. HB 102 does not change that. It simply leaves that designation up to the property owner as opposed to the government making the rules.
Here’s what this bill will do. HB 102 will allow anyone who is legally allowed to own a firearm to carry that firearm wherever they have a legal right to be. Not to brandish it, but to have a firearm on their person, for use in case they need to defend themselves or others.
Constitutional carry acts as a deterrent. Just think about it for a second. If criminals know law-abiding gun owners can carry firearms wherever they go, criminals can no longer pinpoint locations where potential victims will be defenseless. Indeed, in a world where the wolves can’t tell the lions from the lambs, the whole flock is safer.
In a nutshell, the passage of HB 102 is a logical step forward in making Montana a safer place to live. Law-abiding gun owners will be allowed to carry their firearms without a permit, business owners will be allowed to maintain their property rights, and the criminals will have to search elsewhere to ply their trade.
Brian Gosch is Montana state director of the National Rifle Association.