Montana wrestles nation's boldest gun-rights bill


If you have a taste for irony and political dilemmas, this is delicious.

We all know how Western Democratic politicians get more popular by coming out for gun rights. They're packing guns and twirlin' and shootin' … partly because some are gun folks, and mainly because it's good for the image. It differentiates them from effete gun-controllin' Democrats on the ocean coasts. It wards off attacks by zealous Western gun-rights voters.

This 2008 TV ad for Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, for instance, shows the Democratic governor blasting clay pigeons with a shotgun -- a modern classic. The governor is a good shot:



Fair to say, the West has a thing for guns. But sometimes the most zealous gun-rights advocates, pushing to throw off all regulations, seem unreasonable to a lot of people -- and that puts Western Democratic politicians on the spot. It's happening now in Montana -- and the way gun-rights campaigns spread, it could happen soon in other states.

The Montana Shooting Sports Association wants the Legislature to pass a bill that has highly controversial provisions. The National Rifle Association also pushes it. The bill -- titled HB 228 -- would make it easier to brandish a gun and easier to blow away someone in Montana, if you feel threatened ("easier" means, cops and prosecutors would have less grounds for questioning your gun behavior). The most controversial provision would make it easier for people to carry concealed guns WITHOUT A PERMIT …

Understand, Montana has no gun-rights crisis. Rather, it already has some of the loosest gun regulations in the country. If you're a Montanan with a clean record, you can easily get a state permit to carry a concealed gun. That's how more than 14,000 Montanans have been able to get a permit -- roughly one of every 50 people above age 17. And with a Montana permit, you can carry a concealed gun pretty much everywhere, other than in government buildings and banks.

And you don't even need a Montana permit to carry a concealed gun in more than 95 percent of the state (outside city limits), or at your place of business, or in your briefcase or purse, or tucked under your car seat or in your car's glove compartment. Basically, you just need a Montana permit to carry a gun concealed by your clothing inside city limits.

The Montana Shooting Association and the NRA want to eliminate that small regulation on concealed guns in Montana. Only two other states are so completely loose -- Vermont and Alaska. That's what I mean in the headline saying Montana has the nation's boldest gun-rights proposal right now.

Montana's cops and prosecutors opposed several provisions in HB 228, especially the nicknamed "Alaska carry" clause (concealed guns in town, no permit necessary), saying that such looseness would be dangerous.

The head of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, Gary Marbut, says HB 228 and "Alaska carry" would make Montana a safer place. His group pushed a 1991 law that made it as easy as it is today to get permits for concealed guns, and he says, "It's worked well -- no reported problems. The experiment was successful."

In Marbut's view: Criminals carry concealed guns regardless of regulations, but they hesitate to pull crimes because they know that many Montanans are also carrying concealed guns. And those packing legally have not caused trouble. Now it's time to complete the experiment, by letting almost any Montanan who feels like it carry concealed guns on any given day or night in town.

The surprising politics: Normally, the traditional gun party (Republicans) would back such an uncompromising bill, and the only chance of killing it would be with Democrats. But the gun-rights zealots got the bill through the legislative chamber where Democrats have most of their power -- the Montana House of Representatives. The House is evenly split (50 Democrats and 50 Republicans), so House Democrats can stop any bill they don't like. The House passed HB 228 on Feb. 10 -- with the "Alaska carry" clause -- by a large margin (60-40). The partisan math: 11 Democrats in the House joined 49 Republicans in voting for it.

Some of those 11 Democrats represent rural communities, so that helps explain their 110-percent backing for gun rights. But I suspect that some Democrats were voting FOR GUNS no matter what the terms were, to avoid a backlash. The 11 included Mike Phillips (from a college town, Bozeman), Mike Jopek (from a resort town, Whitefish), two from the Butte area, two from Great Falls, and one from Billings. (The Feb. 10 House vote was a key action, so the full list of those 11 Democrats is at the end of this post.)

And the gun-rights zealots got busy on their computer keyboards, clicking like crazy in one of those statistically worthless online "polls" -- 70 percent of the clickers liked the "Alaska carry" clause.

Then the bill went to the Montana Senate, where Republicans have a numerical advantage. Slam dunk? The key Senate Judiciary Committee considered it on March 30; the committee has seven Republicans and five Democrats, so the expectation would be, such a committee would pass a gun-rights bill intact. Instead, the committee began hashing out some compromises.

In the most key vote (not in any news clip), two Republicans on the committee voted with all five Democrats to strip out the bold "Alaska carry" clause. Those two Republicans were Gary Perry (from the Bozeman area) and John Esp (from Big Timber, a ranching community that includes wealthy part-timers such as Tom Brokaw), according to a committee source.

Then the full Senate passed the amended bill, without "Alaska carry" and without other controversial clauses. But because the bill had amendments, it went back to the House for reconsideration, and on April 3, the House voted overwhelmingly (73-27) to reject the Senate amendments. Thus, in that second round in the House, 23 Democrats voted to keep the original House-passed bill intact, including the "Alaska carry" clause. Their reasons were likely complicated, because there were so many Senate amendments. Note: In that round, Bozeman's Phillips voted in the minority for accepting the Senate amendments (meaning, no "Alaska carry").

Next up, maybe Monday or Tuesday, the bill goes to a conference committee that will consist of four House members and three Senate members. Republicans will have a 4-3 majority in that committee. They'll try to hammer out a version of the bill that both chambers will pass. If both pass it, it'll go to the ace Democratic shotgunner, Gov. Schweitzer.

If a bill on the governor's desk has the "Alaska carry" clause, he would be on the spot -- either sign a law that lets people carry guns concealed by their clothing inside city limits WITHOUT A PERMIT, or veto it, thereby taking a stand AGAINST GUNS.

Whatever you think of gun rights and permits, don't you love the political dilemma?

PS - The Montana Shooting Sports Association pushes another bill to set up a legal battle with the federal government, challenging whether the feds can regulate what kind of guns are made and sold in Montana. That bill has "sailed through" the Legislature and now rests on the governor's desk waiting for his action one way or the other.

UPDATE April 7: The conference committee decided to keep Montana's existing permit system for carrying concealed guns. (It went along with the March 30 action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.) The Shooting Association's Marbut says even so, enough provisions of HB 228 got passed by both chambers, it's still a victory for gun-rights advocates -- making it easier to use a gun against people who act threatening, without being hassled later by cops and prosecutors.

Democrats in the Montana House who voted for HB 228 and the "Alaska carry" clause on February 10:

John Fleming  (Saint Ignatius)
Cynthia Hiner  (Deer Lodge)
Mike Jopek  (Whitefish)
Deborah Kottell  (Great Falls)
Bill McChesney  (Miles City)
Robert Mehlhoff  (Great Falls)
Art Noonan  (Butte)
Pat Noonan  (Ramsay)
Mike Phillips  (Bozeman)
Cheryl Steenson  (Kalispell)
Kendall Van Dyk  (Billings)


Gun control
Apr 06, 2009 06:00 AM
We enacted very strict gun laws in New England, specifically New York (strictest in country), and look where that got us. Meanwhile, in Vermont, an open carry state, has no such massacres and shootouts. Food for thought.
Ray's bias against the right to self defense
Apr 06, 2009 11:48 AM
Wow, Ray, your bias against the right to be armed is totally obvious based on the words you choose.
I am a grandmother.
I am a former teacher.
I am an artist.
I am a home owner.
I am a human rights advocate.
I am a peace worker.
I am a tax payer.
I am a gun owner.
I challenge you to compare violent crime with gun control laws, and show us how gun control laws have ever made anyone any safer. Please.

As a grandmother who has lived in a Chicago suburb with strict gun control laws and increasing crime, and then has lived in a western state with few gun control laws, I vote to arm everyone. For self defense, for protection of property, for the ability to stand against fascists or the criminally insane (but I repeat myself) there is no better choice that armed individuals.

Shame on you for your obvious bias against gun ownership, and the right to be able to defend myself at any time. Shame.

Iloilo Marguerite Jones, who has also signed the non-aggression pledge: have you?
Not Journalism
Steve Ware
Steve Ware
Apr 06, 2009 08:48 PM
For the second week in a row, HCN writers have shown their anti-Second Amendment bias. Ray, you are not a journalist when you use "zealot" to describe a pro-Second Amendment supporter. We are not zealots. Having a concealed carry permit does not make me a crazed mad man. Rather I consider it my obligation to protect my family and myself as well as those around me. Look where the crime rates are highest. Then look at the firearms laws in those places. You will see a correlation between strict anti-Second Amendment laws and high crime. Washington DC, Chicago, and NYC come to mind. I'm sure your selected home town of Bozeman is much safer than those because of people that have chosen to protect themselves and you if necessary.
RE: Not Journalism
Action Jackson
Action Jackson
May 10, 2010 02:01 PM
You're right, Steve - can you imagine some "journalist" writing about "Free Speech Zealots" or "Right To Assemble Zealots"?
Sean from Santa Fe
Sean from Santa Fe
Apr 08, 2009 12:32 AM
Ms Jones, perhaps you should study the concept of non-aggression. Your willingness to carry lethal weaponry, and reserve the right to use it immediately on your own unilateral judgment, is the epitome of aggressive behavior. Perhaps before you become a great-grandmother (unless, of course, your grandchildren are killed in a gun-related accident in the home before they can reproduce) you could study cooperation. I grew up in Montana, have lived in Washington, DC when it was the supposed "murder capital" of the US, and currently live in New Mexico. I have never felt the need to carry a gun or that it would make me or others around me safer.
Action Jackson
Action Jackson
May 10, 2010 02:12 PM
Sean, what a riot! Each individual has an inherent right to self-defense. If there is a reasonable possibility (and there is) that one would be confronted by an assailant with a gun, it is reasonable to carry a gun. The AGGRESSOR in this instance is the assailant, not the victim. If you have a moral compunction regarding using violent means to defend yourself, by all means live according to your conscience. How arrogant to cast aspersions on those who live otherwise, yet within their very natural rights. If you're lucky, when the armed AGGRESSOR attacks you, an armed citizen will come to your defense.
Gun control
Matthew Garrison
Matthew Garrison
Apr 07, 2009 11:00 AM
FYI, New York is not New England, and northern new england states (Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine) have some of the least restrictive gun laws in the nation, as well as the lowest crime rates.
Heaven forbid
Apr 06, 2009 08:56 PM
"WITHOUT A PERMIT"? Heaven forbid that people be allowed to exercise the right of self defense (a right every living thing has) without getting permission from the ruling class. </sarcasm>

I guess something like this would seem shocking, to someone with no sense of self worth or free will, who thinks there is nothing wrong with asking permission for everything he wants to do.

Thanks for helping import that California mind-set to the West, Ray.
News flash
kenneth keffer
kenneth keffer
Oct 11, 2009 12:27 AM
California is as far west as you can go unless you want to get wet. There are three distinct regions of California, North, Central and South. We have Oakland where they shoot each other daily and the South where gangs do battle and then we have the North where a murder is rare and I've never seen a person packing a gun at a town hall meeting.
Geography 101
the old goat
the old goat
Oct 11, 2009 07:52 PM
FYI, Reno NV is further west than LA.

Must be that new "geography"...just because it's close to the ocean...

2nd Amendment
Elias Alias
Elias Alias
Apr 06, 2009 11:17 PM
Last time I read it, the 2nd Amendment said not one word about a "permit".

So, in a nation of law with a founding legal charter which includes the protection of every citizen's unalienable right to keep and bear arms, whence cometh these strange concepts about "permits" to carry a gun any way a citizen chooses? How far down that slippery slope into authoritarian statism should we citizens slip just to make fearful social planners like Ray Ring feel more comfy? The West was not won by permit. Are you trying to murder the spirit of the West as well as America? What part of "shall not be infringed" confuses you?
What part of "well-regulated" don't you understand?
Sean from Santa Fe
Sean from Santa Fe
Apr 08, 2009 12:50 AM
I guess you have only read the "edited" version of the 2nd amendment promulgated by the NRA and its ilk. When you take the entire amendment, it is obvious that the founders meant for enrolled members of state militias to carry firearms, and be well-regulated. In modern terms, well-regulated certainly would mean that we know who has guns. If we really were adhering to the amendment, you could only have a gun if you agree to serve in a militia to protect your state's citizens.
Reviewing The 2nd Amendment
Elias Alias
Elias Alias
Apr 08, 2009 12:04 PM
Thanks for your reply. Let's just read the entire 2nd Amendment together, okay? You can find the complete Bill of Rights here:
I took that from the White House website and posted it at the JRC site. Here is the full text of the 2nd Amendment:
"Amendment II - A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court read an open letter which was published in the Washington Times by then-Secretary of State Brad Johnson, advising the Supreme Court that if the Court decided that the 2nd Amendment addressed a "collective right", instead of an "individual right" to keep and bear arms, then the State of Montana would reconsider its compact with the U.S. Federal government, and then the Court decided in Heller vs D.C. that the 2nd Amendment guarantees an "individual right" to keep and bear arms. As an individual right, any alleged "law" which would infringe the individual's right to keep and bear arms must be null and void on grounds of unconstitutionality. The 2nd Amendment does not say that the individual citizen must register his weapons, does not say how long a barrel must be, does not say how swiftly or slowly the gun can fire. None of that stuff. It just gives me, an honorably-discharged U.S. Marine and Vietnam veteran, and all individual citizens, a legal and full protection for my unalienable right to keep and bear arms. Our rights existed before the Government was created, and the Government was created to guarantee and protect those rights for all individual citizens. Government does not "give" rights - it "protects" rights. I took the oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic when I joined the Marine Corps. That oath had no expiration date, and "once a Marine, always a Marine" is a favorite phrase among my Marine Corps brothers and sisters. I'm concerned about statist threats to our 2nd Amendment, so I'm now an administrator at Oath Keepers, which is a growing group of U.S. military, law-enforcement, and veteran personnel who are making their stand against enforcing illegal (unconstitutional) orders, such as the illegal use of the military to confiscate guns from the American public. Read all about our new group here -
Want to talk about it? Our forum is here:
In closing, I'll state that my views on the NRA are at best "luke-warm", because I see the NRA as too willing to compromise my rights. I prefer these three proactive assets to American freedom:
Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA)
Jews For The Preservation of Firearm Ownership (JPFO)
and Gun Owners of America
I would like to invite you to join in the struggle to return this nation to a status of honoring its founding legal charter, the U.S. Constitution, as the best means of guiding this nation back to its moral, spiritual, freedom-loving roots as discussed openly in the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers, and in the writings and letters of the Founders. Therein we find the true intent held by the Founders, and therein we'll find the way back to the America of which our history is most proud. Thanks for reading.

selective reading indeed.
William Petersen
William Petersen
Jun 01, 2009 10:47 PM

I would like to ask you if what you feel and believe, with the same view you take towards having uninhibited rights to bear arms, applies to voting rights, which are regulated at the State and Federal levels? Within the context of the Constitution, one can have a literal reading of the document or an interpretative reading of the document's "intent." You stated the 2nd Amendment says nothing about registering but it also says nothing to the contrary. The Constitution outlines what government won't do as well. It won't infringe on the right to bear arms but it says nothing about whether or not it will regulate that right.

I have no problems with someone owning guns but I think ownership of guns should be handled in the same manner that we handle voting or driving a car. This presents no infringement on one owning a gun or guns. The prevailing view among many orthodox gun-rights supporters is that ANY regulation of guns is an infringement of that right. However, one can a historical view and interpret inalienable rights as being rights that one is born with, with self protection being one of those right. But protection by any means necessary is another matter. I can extend that right to make the argument that carrying a nuclear device is my right to carry and bear arms. Nuclear arms that is. At what level does the right to bear arms become an endangerment to other American citizens? This is the point of regulation by the Federal government and the States. To ensure and protect the citizenry.

However, as someone who has shot firearms and has family and friends who hunt with guns I see no real infringement if we clarify what constitutes gun regulations as it relates to where one can carry guns or what types of guns one owns that represent a step beyond. If I own a gun or guns I would have no problems if there were a licensing program in my state that allowed me to buy all the guns I wanted. If I wanted to collect or shoot guns like semi or fully automatic assault weapons or even RPGs then a program that allowed for testing that results in an endorsement to my gun license is still not an infringement of my right to bear arms. Gun dealers must apply for FFLs, how is a gun license with classifications an infringement? Much like getting a motorcycle or CDL. This actually would result in a higher level of standard.

Does this address the issue of crime? Perhaps not but as the saying goes "locks don't stop thieves, they just keep honest people honest."
One of the primary places for someone to acquire firearms used in crimes is through straw sales or loose sales regulations at gun shows.
The NRA fights gun regulations in a very hypocritical manner. Using the 2nd Amendment to fight an Federal regulation of particular firearm types and then uses the Interstate Commerce clause to fight municipal or State regulations of carrying guns or own specific classes of guns. So which is it?

Regardless of the presumed views that more armed citizens deters crime or banning guns deters crimes, criminals will still commit crime. What can increase are gun related incidences related to alcohol, domestic abuse, or short-fuse incidences amongst gun-toting individuals as disagreements or fights escalate into something more.

The conversation of gun rights and reasonable regulations has to get beyond the paranoia level of many to come up with a solution that satisfies many but not everyone. There IS a middle ground on this issue.
Aug 19, 2009 09:43 PM
To Elias
Aug 19, 2009 11:05 PM
The "CHEERS" was intended for Elias... All other so called Americans can jump in a time machine and be whisked away to the magical land of Soviet Russia for re-education on the subject of gun control, or any other infringement of rights guaranteed to us by our Constitution for that matter. My wife and her side of the family are Russians, and they all say that America had better wake up and fast! It's obvious to them after having been sold a bill of goods by Lennon, who is nothing more than a white Obama that FREEDOM must NEVER be traded for TYRANNY! "Democracy is two wolves and one sheep voting on what to eat for dinner". Franklin said it well. These rights are not up for grabs even if 99.999% of the people want to take them from us.
The Militia Clause
Bill St. Clair
Bill St. Clair
Apr 16, 2009 06:52 PM
"Reread that pesky first clause of the Second Amendment. It doesn't say what ANY of us thought it said. What it says is that infringing the right of the people to keep and bear arms is TREASON. What else do you call an act that endangers "the security of a free state"? And if it's treason, then it's punishable by death.

"I suggest due process, speedy trials, and public hangings."

-- L. Neil Smith
The actual meaning of "well-regulated" as used in the 2nd ammendment
Quincy Daniel OrHai
Quincy Daniel OrHai
Sep 01, 2009 01:45 AM
I suppose this is a dead link now, almost 5 months after that last post, but I was redirected to the discussion, and I want to take issue with Sean from Santa Fe's comment regarding the meaning of "well-regulated" in the 2nd amendment of the Bill of Rights. At that time (1789), and for a century after, all able bodied men (age 17 - 45) were regarded as being part of the unorganized militia, and were counted on to come to the defense of other Americans as needed, bringing their own arms. Typically, as private citizens, they each privately possessed many different calibers and kinds of weapons (mostly muzzleloading black powder firearms and cutting blades -swords, bayonets, knives and war hatchets). The insertion of "well regulated" into the 2nd amendment was a well meaning attempt to encourage standardization, maintenance and care of privately owned weapons and ammunition, and to provide for public purchase of sufficient lead balls of the right size (i.e. that used by the citizens, mostly .65 but also .69, .50, .36, .30, etc) to be used as needed in common defense.

The phrase "well-regulated" was in common use long before 1789, and remained so for a century thereafter. It referred to the property of something being in proper working order. Something that was well-regulated was calibrated correctly, functioning as expected. Establishing government oversight of the people's arms was not only not the intent in using the phrase in the 2nd amendment, it was precisely to render the government powerless to do so that the founders wrote it. In other words, the phrase "well regulated" in reference to rifles, muskets, bayonets and other arms meant properly adjusted for accuracy, and well maintained, and also referred to the training of the men employing them.
link not dead
Ray Ring
Ray Ring
Sep 01, 2009 09:51 AM
... and the comment chain lives on. We read the new comments as they come in, so don't hesitate, and thanks for this background on the origin of the phrase "well-regulated militia."
gun rights
Oct 07, 2009 03:46 PM
Actually the literal meaning of the two terms used in the 2nd amendment, "regulated" and "militia" have changed from what they meant in the 18th century.

Back then "regulated" did not mean controlled by a government it meant simply up-kept. In other words, well armed, well trained and well supplied.

"Militia" also meant something different from what we think of today. In the founding father's day the militia simply meant every able bodied man.

Don't believe me? Consider this: When the British marched to Lexington and Concord Massachusetts to take away ammo and powder (aka arms) from the colonist it was not a federal or a even state run army of troops that stopped them, it was average MA citizens who grabbed the musket from off their wall at home and literally ran to hold the British back. <<<this is the primary reason the second amendment was put in place. And FYI, the national guard is NOT a state militia anymore....
Gun Rights
Quincy OrHai
Quincy OrHai
Apr 07, 2009 12:26 PM
Hi Ray, et al.

Thanks for reminding me why I dropped my subscription and annual donation to the High Country News years ago. With the help of editorial leadership like yours, HCN has become just another elitist media shill for the Jackass party. Real westerners (i.e. not Kalifornians, or dinizens of the People's Republik's of Portland or Seattle) believe in things like self sufficiency and independence, and we are not afraid to fight for what is right, including using deadly force in our own self defense and in the defense of others that are incapable of defending themselves. Traditionally that emphasizes women and children. If some of the victims of recently publicized multiple murders had been armed, they could have defended themselves and others.

Police have no constitutional duty to protect anyone. Mostly they are there as historians and reporters. We each have a God given right and duty to defend ourselves and, if necessary, others. I suggest you do some serious soul searching as to why you and your hoplophobic ("a mental disturbance characterized by irrational aversion to weapons") cohorts are afraid of an armed citizenry, the best defense against tyranny.


Daniel OrHai
Bozeman, Montana
Ray Ring
Ray Ring
Apr 07, 2009 03:25 PM
Some commenters seem to think I have a thing against guns. Not so. I like guns. I've owned guns for more than 40 years -- pistols and rifles and shotguns. Many people I know have guns and think similar to what I think -- a few regulations are OK. We're certainly entitled to think that, without being insulted for it, as one or two commenters have.

On the question of whether people should need a permit to carry concealed, many gun owners think that's a good regulation. That's why only two states let people carry without permits.

To get the Montana permit, most people take a class in pistol safety. Gary Marbut, the head of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, teaches such a class. Clearly he thinks it's good for people to receive instruction, to reduce the chances of shooting innocent people by mistake. If Montana eliminates the requirement for a permit, no instruction will be required, and a some people (not criminals, just citizens) will carry concealed without adequate skills. That's risky and it's difficult for me to see any need for it.

Rebuttal For Ray Ring
Elias Alias
Elias Alias
Apr 08, 2009 12:59 PM
Hopefully, this shall not be taken as being "insulting". I think this discussion is healthy and interesting. But I must disagree with your thinking. Ray, you stated:
"Some commenters seem to think I have a thing against guns. Not so. I like guns. I've owned guns for more than 40 years -- pistols and rifles and shotguns. Many people I know have guns and think similar to what I think -- a few regulations are OK."

Ray, the 2nd Amendment is a part of the highest uncontested Common Law of this land. the legitimate source and foundation of all subsequent legislation is the true meaning, spirit, and letter of the U.S. Constitution. I'm sure we can agree on that. Therefore, it matters not what "many people" think. What matters is what the Constitution says. Any compromise of our Constitution is a departure from honest adhesion to the tenets of that Constitution. "Many people" believe that the Moon Landing by NASA was a staged fraud. What those people "think" has nothing to do with the truth of NASA's accomplishment; and what people think about guns and gun laws must take a second seat to the intent, meaning, and wording of the U.S. Constitution. It's just that simple.

But to echo your first statement, your second paragraph stated:

"On the question of whether people should need a permit to carry concealed, many gun owners think that's a good regulation."

That is their right, to think as they choose, but unless their thinking conforms to the wording of the 2nd Amendment, their thinking remains impotent and irrelevant. What is potent and relevant is the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We are not a nation of "what many people think", but instead are a nation of law. Honor the law as written, please? Let's get rid of intrusive and unconstitutional gun laws, for every "law" issued subsequent to the 2nd Amendment is by definition an "infringement".

I am a personal acquaintance of Gary Marbut of MSSA, having been at his home and having met him while speaking on behalf of proposed bills in the legislature in Helena and at other political events. If I had the money, I'd take his gun safety class just to support MSSA. But I'm an unemployed old war veteran with no money. Therefore, I must rely upon the excellent training in gun safety as taught me by the U.S. Marine Corps. I remember clearly everything I knew while fighting with guns in Vietnam, and I truly resent the government of Montana or the Federal government insisting I must be "trained" before I can have a "permit" to keep and bear arms in defense of my person, property, family, and community. I trust that you can see the logic in my stance on this issue, and I'd appreciate it if you'd honor my stance by understanding why I do not recognize any law which would infringe my unalienable right to self-protection.

Perhaps a discussion here shall not alter your view, or perhaps it will. But all anyone needs to do today to achieve a fully-informed opinion on this question is look at the facts relating to crime figures in areas where people are armed vs areas in which people have been disarmed (or "regulated"). Crime goes down when a community is armed. Crime escalates when a community has been disarmed. What Quincy said in another post on this thread is true - law enforcement is not responsible for defending citizens against criminal acts - if it were responsible, I could sue the police/sheriff for failure to protect me from being robbed or burglarized. But I can't sue for that, because the courts would state the truth - the ultimate responsibility for my self-defense rests in my hands, not the hand of law enforcement. Law enforcement's duty is to investigate and bring suspected perpetrators to justice - after the fact of the crime.

In closing I would implore you and readers here to admit that our nation is under direct threat by a Federal government operating outside the legal limits laid out for it in its founding legal document. The "interstate commerce" clause and the "general welfare" clause have been elasticized to a point past bursting, and individual American citizens are now being surveilled illegally, regulated illegally, taxed illegally, sent to illegal (undeclared by Congress) wars abroad, and are as a people being taken into a North American Union which shall have legal authority to over-rule the U.S. Constitution in all legal matters. Americans are waking up to this threat in vast numbers as we speak. Getting rid of intrusive gun regulations is but one step toward restoring the Republic created by our Founders. It will not hurt one danged thing if you join your neighbors here in Montana in demanding that government get its hand out of our abilities to defend our lives, our property, and our community. But it does hurt all of us when journalists publish slanted stances based on "what some people think".

Montana guns update
Ray Ring
Ray Ring
Apr 07, 2009 05:15 PM
The conference committee decided April 7 to keep Montana's existing permit system for carrying concealed guns. (It went along with the March 30 action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.) The Shooting Association's Marbut says even so, enough provisions of HB 228 got passed by both chambers, it's still a victory for gun-rights advocates -- making it easier to use a gun against people who act threatening, without being hassled later by cops and prosecutors.
Canadians don't shoot each other
Adam Guilford
Adam Guilford
Apr 10, 2009 01:57 PM
Canadians own more guns per capita than Americans, yet the numbers of people shot by guns (per capita)in Canada is far lower. I don't believe there is a corelation between stricter gun laws and lower gun death rates. Perhaps Canadians have more respect for each other than Americans? I am a life long Democrat, but I disagree with those in my party who try to restrict gun ownership of law abiding citizens. I am all for restricting guns from felons and those with a history of mental illness, but am deeply suspicious of those in my party who take a less than literal interpretation of the 2nd amendment. It seems to me that the wording "The right of the people to bear arms shall not be abridged" is clear, disarming law abiding citizens is not wise, a well armed population is a deterent to criminals as well as tyranny. This issue has been a boon to the GOP in Western & rural areas. I believe the Democrats in Montana are on the right track....there are far more important issues to deal with than restricting gun ownership for citizens who are not a threat to others, and the GOP should not be alowed to continue to use this and other issues like straw men to distract voters from the issues that matter.
The founding father's owned guns
Adam Guilford
Adam Guilford
Apr 10, 2009 02:12 PM
To Sean in Santa Fe:
I notice that you stress the wording "well regulated militia" from the 2nd amendment, the following phrase "the RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE to bear arms shall not be abridged" is key to understanding their intention. I feel it is obvious that the intent was broad and not meant to be interpereted narrowly or out of context, as I believe you are doing. I agree with you about the importance of non-aggression, and as our neighbors to the North have shown that is more of a cultural attitude rather than a question of banning guns. I do not own guns myself, but I do not want to see the right to be destroyed by a bunch of nanny staters, its kind of like abortion or gay marriage if you are against them don't have one. You are against guns, don't own one..... just don't try to force everyone else to be like you OK?
Armed Grandmas
Adam Guilford
Adam Guilford
Apr 10, 2009 02:22 PM
Finally, I would like to express my happiness that Grandmas like Mrs Jones are ready to protect their loved ones from aggression, stick to your guns.... and never fail to respect the awesome power that they represent
Next thing to tackle
d Larson
d Larson
Apr 11, 2009 09:04 PM
One thing that I don't like is the prohibition against carrying CONCEALED in RESTAURANTS that serve alcohol. I can understand the issue with places that have a dedicated BAR intended for the consumption of alcohol. I like to go into a restaurant and have a meal and not have to leave my protection in the car. I don't like to open carry to avoid being guilty of carrying in an establishment that serves. Perhaps we can get the law re-worded to read "it is illegal to carry concealed into an area of and establishment that is primarily for the disbursement of alcoholic beverages (BAR)", "restaurant areas are not prohibited provided the carrier is dining and NOT consuming alcoholic beverages". This makes COMMON SENSE. One should not be drinking and carrying any way. I also have a problem with banks. There is no Federal statute against it. I think the law about banks and trains go back to the wild west days when there were robberies. Let's strike those provisions from the law books and keep BARS, Secure Areas, State Buildings, and Schools. Also the "Public Gathering" restriction makes no sense. Time to bring the restrictions up to date with some common sense things. Someone should write the reps as a compromise bill for the next session for stripping out "Alaska Carry". They should not worry about a law abiding, back-round checked "permit holder" having dinner or making a deposit, right?
2nd amendment
Frank Belgarde
Frank Belgarde
Apr 22, 2009 03:52 PM
The Bill of Rights is clear on this matter. I carry everyday and believe fully in the Alaska/Vermont Carry law. I served in Iraq in the 2nd Infantry Div. and have earned my Combat Infatry Badge. I know the power of a firearm first hand. I believe that all the gun laws and taxes are unconstitutional. Yet most don't understand that to own and carry a firearm is a life style. I believe that to own or carry a person has to educate themselves not that it should be required. If you make the choice then you take on a great responsibility becouse you basicly have the power of god. You have the ability to literally choose who live and who doesn't. It is a fundenmental right of all things to defend themselves. To do so by choosing a firearm for that purpose you have to be educated. As my father told me as a child "Respect the gun or it will kill you." When I asked what he meant he explained that if you don't educate yourself about it will kill. Dont clean it can exploded and kill. Dont know how to use it properly and accidents will happen. Don't spend time using the skill and have to defend someone you may miss and kill someone unitendedly. While I never understood the far left on the matter and a few other matters. The Bill of Rights is clear it is the right of the people just the same as Free speech and peaceful assembly. Without the 2nd you can have none of the others it's the right that protects all the others.
This is so funny!!
Jun 01, 2009 06:44 PM
I moved from WY to CA. The left wing people here are so scared about guns that it is crazy. People here do not understand that gun in the right hands reduce crime.
Chop Sui
Chop Sui
Jul 22, 2009 12:51 AM
I don't know, I live in the town of Bozeman Mt, I carry a weapon with me about 80% of the time. I don't have a permit so I can't carry it on my person concealed, but it is usually in the car or on the desk at home. Don't really see a problem with having firearms. I am sure the only people who don't like them are the ones who don't understand them or haven't been around them. A large number of my friends have their permits and carry weapons with them 99% of them time. Never known any of them to have a problem.
Alaska carry
Sep 22, 2009 08:03 AM
As a longtime Alaskan, gun owner, and Army MP, I make it a habit to carry a handgun when I leave the house. And yes, the fact that I had it and let it's presence be known has saved a young female friend of mine from harm from her abusive ex-boyfriend and his four thuggish friends. The fact that even my 78 year old grandmother can (and does) carry a concealed handgun gives potential criminals in this state reason to be concerned that any crime they commit may well be their last. It is fact that any gun restrictions that well meaning politicians emplace are only heeded by law abiding citizens. The criminal element allready has no compulsion to obey any of societies laws and will continue to carry weapons. Don't get me wrong, I am not a "Zealot", i just believe in the right to have the ability to protect the ones i care for when even my military training would not be enough. In a perfect world firearms of any type would not be needed. There is no such thing as a perfect world.

About Ray

Ray has been a Western journalist since 1979. He's now High Country News senior editor, based in Bozeman, Montana. He's earned national recognition including a George Polk Award for political reporting, a Sidney Hillman Foundation Journalism Award for investigating oil-field accidents, and an Investigative Reporters & Editors scroll for going undercover as a prison inmate. He's had three novels published.