(August 23, 2013 – for immediate release)
Ninth Circuit Rules in Firearms Freedom Act Case
MISSOULA, MONT. – The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals released its opinion today in MSSA v. Holder, the lawsuit brought in federal court to validate the principles of the Montana Firearms Freedom Act (MFFA). The MFFA was enacted by the Montana Legislature and signed into law by then Governor Brian Schweitzer in 2009. The MFFA declares that any firearms made and retained in Montana are not subject to any federal regulation under the power given to Congress in the U.S. Constitution to regulate commerce among the states. The MFFA uses firearms as a vehicle to challenge federal commerce clause power.
Plaintiffs in MSSA v. Holder are the Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA), the Second Amendment Foundation, and Gary Marbut, President of MSSA. To set up the legal challenge, Marbut determined to manufacture a youth-model, .22 caliber, bolt-action rifle called the Montana Buckaroo. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms informed Marbut that any such unlicensed manufacture would be illegal under federal law.
Despite Marbut’s BATF-prohibited plans to make the Montana Buckaroo, the federal District Court ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the lawsuit, and dismissed the lawsuit. MSSA appealed this dismissal to the Ninth Circuit.
In its long-awaited ruling today, the Ninth Circuit reversed the federal District Court on the standing issue, saying that Marbut has standing to bring the challenge, but held that existing Supreme Court precedent was against plaintiffs on the merits of the lawsuit.
Marbut commented, This was about as good of a ruling as we could have expected from the Ninth Circuit. We must get to the U.S. Supreme Court to accomplish our goal of overturning 70 years of flawed Supreme Court rulings on the interstate commerce clause. We knew that the Ninth Circuit couldn’t help us with that. Only the Supreme Court can overturn Supreme Court precedent. However, now that the standing question is resolved in our favor, we have the green light to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Marbut says the attorneys involved are already beginning to work on the appeal process.
Marbut continued, The time is ripe in America for states to challenge federal power, from Obamacare to indefinite detention, to illegal spying on U.S. Citizens and media, to IRS abuses of power, and more. It was the states which created this federal government that has grown to become such a monster. It’s time for the states to get their creature back on a leash. With MSSA v. Holder, we will offer the Supreme Court a chance to do just that.
Since the MFFA was initially enacted in Montana in 2009, nine other states have enacted clones of the MFFA, and 20-some additional states have introduced MFFA-clone bills. The lawsuit to validate the MFFA principles, MSSA v. Holder, has attracted many intervenors and amicus curiae parties. These include the State of Montana, the attorneys general of eight other states, Montana legislators, legislators from other states, the Goldwater Institute, Gun Owners Foundation, the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, the CATO Institute, the Weapons Collectors Society of Montana, the Pacific Legal Foundation, and others.
More information about the Firearms Freedom Act movement and lawsuit is available at:
Information: Gary Marbut, 406-549-1252
TWG: THANK YOU, GARY MARBUT!
Posted by TAC Daily Updates
HELENA, Mont. (March 20, 2013) – The Montana House today concurred with the State Senate on a a bill prohibiting state compliance with any federal attempt to enforce a ban semiautomatic firearms or high capacity magazines in Montana. The vote was 62-35.
The House previously approved HB302 by a vote of 56-42. And last week the Senate approved with with an amendment, 28-21. The House had the option of approving the amended version of the bill or sending the original back to the Senate. Inside sources indicated that the Senate was prepared to vote down the original bill which would have included a provision dictating to the county attorneys of the state how to handle violations of the act.
If signed by Governor Bullock, HB302 will prohibit “a peace officer, state employee, or employee of any political subdivision is prohibited from enforcing, assisting in the enforcement of, or otherwise cooperating in the enforcement of a federal ban on semiautomatic weapons or large magazines and is also prohibited from participating in any federal enforcement action implementing a federal ban on semiautomatic weapons or large magazines.”
The law also prohibits expenditure of public funds for the purpose of enforcing a federal gun ban. Any state agent working with the feds would be guilty of official misconduct. Any use of public funds to assist the federal government would be considered “public theft.”
An employee of the state or any political subdivision may not expend public funds or allocate public resources for the enforcement of a federal ban on semiautomatic weapons or large magazines. Any expenditure of public funds or public resources, including paying the salaries of personnel, to enforce or participate in the enforcement of a federal ban on semiautomatic weapons or large magazines is an unauthorized use of public resources and is considered theft as provided in 45-6-301.
The so-called ‘war on drugs’ illustrates federal dependency on the support of state agencies in enforcing its laws. Federal agencies almost always act in cooperation with state and local law enforcement. In many situations, federal agents have absolutely no way to carry out enforcement without massive state and local support. If a large number of states simply refuse to cooperate with federal gun bans, it will effectively nullify the law. Without state compliance and assistance, many unconstitutional federal acts are little more than a house of cards. Refusing compliance on a state or local level is a big deal – and it sets the stage for others to do the same.
Earlier this week, Judge Andrew Napolitano supported this position when on Fox News he said that state noncompliance with federal gun control would make it “nearly impossible” to enforce.
“We saw the power of non-compliance in the 1850s, ” Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey said. “Northern states passed personal liberty laws and flat out refused to cooperate with federal agents trying to return accused runaway slaves south. They denied use of their jails and facilities and in some cases criminalized state cooperation – just like the Montana bill. It was so effective, South Carolina and Mississippi listed northern nullification of the Fugitive Slave Act as a cause for secession.”
More than two dozen states have introduced legislation to nullify federal gun “laws.” – and Montana is leading the way as the first state where both houses have approved such a bill.
ACTION ITEMS for Montana
1. Call Governor Steve Bullock. A phone call will have far more effect than an email. Let him know that you want him to SIGN HB302 when it reaches his desk. Strongly, but very politely, make sure he knows that you want him to do the right thing – principle not party – and make sure that Montana will not be a part of unconstitutional federal bans.
link to contact form here: http://governor.mt.gov/contact.aspx
2. Encourage your local community to take action as well. Present the even broader 2nd Amendment Preservation Act to your city county, your town council, or your county commissioners. Various local governments around the country are already passing similar resolutions and ordinances. Local legislative action present a great way to strengthen a statewide campaign against violations of the 2nd Amendment
Model legislation here:
LEGISLATION and TRACKING
If you would like to see model legislation to introduce in your state or local community to nullify federal firearm laws, please see The Tenth Amendment Center’s Model Legislation: The 2nd Amendment Preservation Act.
Track the status of 2nd Amendment preservation legislation in states around the country HERE.
President, The Montana Shooting Sports Association
In an op-ed published in The Daily Caller on February 23, Gregg Re repeats the all-too-common understanding that the overrated Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution makes the federal government supreme in virtually anything it wishes to do. That Gregg would hold such an opinion is no big surprise. It’s what he and most everyone else were taught in high school. Fortunately, I have learned since high school that this view of the Supremacy Clause is not only wrong; it is dangerous to people and to individual liberty.
TWG: If you support our Bill of Rights and specifically our Right To Keep and Bear Arms, please do your part and re-send this letter to your Representatives in Congress and in your State Government.
Open Letter to Members of Congress:
In coming weeks, you will face pressure from the Obama administration and others to implement a ban on semi-automatic firearms and certain ammunition feeding devices, and to pass laws requiring private gun transfers to be processed via the National Instant Check System.
Yet the “assault weapon” misnomer is a myth perpetuated by gun control advocates who seek to confuse the public about the difference between millions of semi-automatic firearms, which are functionally identical to
hunting rifles, and military “assault rifles,” which are machine guns virtually unavailable to the public since implementation of the National Firearms Act of 1934.
The truth about modern rifles
The modern rifles Senator Dianne Feinstein has, by her own admission, waited decades to ban differ from others primarily by cosmetic features such as barrel shrouds, threaded barrels, flash suppressors, pistol grips and adjustable stocks – things which do not affect function. The notion being promulgated by gun control advocates that such features increase lethality by allowing guns to be “fired from the hip” is absurd: Any firearms expert will attest that rifles can only be effectively utilized from the shoulder.
Although you are being told that ammunition used by modern rifles is excessively destructive, in truth it is ballistically inferior to common .30-06 hunting ammunition and was selected by the military not for its lethality,
but instead for light weight and low recoil.
And when you hear how “high capacity” magazines increase mortality in mass shootings, understand that Seung-Hui Cho carried no fewer than nineteen magazines for the Virginia Tech rampage, and that nearly all mass murderers who use guns carry multiple firearms, rendering magazine capacity moot. Like the misnomer “assault weapon,” the “high capacity” designation of more than ten rounds for magazines represents nothing more than an arbitrary limit set on devices which have been in common possession since the early Twentieth
Moreover, attempts to process private gun sales through the National Instant Check System represent nothing less than a stepping stone to national gun registration; under the Clinton administration, the FBI retained NICS
transaction records in violation of the Brady Act, creating a defacto national registration system.
Most outrageous, however, is Sen. Feinstein’s proposal to regulate “grandfathered” modern rifles under the National Firearms Act. Doing so would not only entail registering millions of existing firearms, but would
represent unprecedented expansion of police powers through the BATFE by requiring millions of gun owners to be fingerprinted and photographed like common criminals. Because a large percentage will refuse to comply,
the scheme, if implemented, will make felons of otherwise law-abiding citizens.
Semi-auto ban: No impact on violence
Neither have such laws been effective. From 1994 to 2004, the previous ban on semi-automatic firearms and magazines had no impact on school shootings, which actually increased during that period. Indeed, some of the worst school shootings, including Columbine High School, took place during the ban.
Despite predictions from gun control advocates that violent crime would increase after the ban expired, it has actually dropped: According to FBI Uniform Crime Reports, between expiration of the ban in 2004 and the
most recent for which data is available (2011), violent crime dropped by 17% and homicide, by 15%.
Meanwhile, weapons use in homicide has remained unchanged and, significantly, use of rifles (including those targeted for bans) declined slightly from 2.7% of homicides in 2004 to 2.5% of homicides in 2011. Clearly, rifles of any type, including those with features targeted by semi-auto bans, are rarely used in crimes.
‘Gun Free School Zones Act’ increased killings
What does appear to have impacted school shootings was implementation of the latest version of the “Gun Free School Zones Act” (GFSZA), which is associated with a dramatic increase in school murders.
Between the first significant school shooting, in 1966, and enactment of the 1996 GFSZA, media summaries reveal 8 shootings with 134 victims killed or wounded – a rate of 4.3 victims per year. Between 1996 and 2012, the review finds 62 shootings and 367 victims – a fivefold increase to 23 victims per year. Yet, during the same period, FBI Uniform Crime Reports indicate homicide nationwide dropped by 14%.
While media summaries may not be comprehensive, the GFSZA has clearly been an abject failure. Worse, evidence suggests it may actually create “kill zones” which attract violent predators.
Researchers John Lott and William Landes, then at Yale and the University of Chicago, respectively, studied multiple victim public shootings. Said Lott, “Gun prohibitionists concede that banning guns around schools has not quite worked as intended—but their response has been to call for more regulation of guns. Yet what might appear to be the most obvious policy may actually cost lives. When gun-control laws are passed, it is law abiding citizens, not would-be criminals, who adhere to them.”
Examining data from 1976 to 1995, they discovered that mass homicides in states adopting concealed handgun laws declined by 84%, deaths plummeted by 90% and injuries by 82.5%. Crediting the reductions to deterrence (even suicidal maniacs avoid armed victims), Lott and Landes called their findings “dramatic,” concluding:
“[T]he only policy factor to have a consistently significant influence on multiple victim public shootings is the passage of concealed handgun laws.”
Members of the National Coalition to Stop the Gun Ban demand that Congress refuse to use lawful gun owners as political scapegoats and instead reduce school violence by:
· Defeating any attempt to pass gun control including, but not limited to, banning semi-automatic firearms or magazines, or requiring private gun transfers to be registered through the National Instant Check System; and
· Repealing the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1996.
Some will urge you to “compromise,” perhaps even the National Rifle Association. The many thousands of gun rights supporters represented by the Coalition, however, regard “compromise,” as our opposition defines it, to be a process in which we lose slightly fewer of our rights than under the original proposal. Consequently, any legislation which registers or bans firearms; limits magazine capacity; registers private transactions through NICS; or restricts time, place or manner of self-defense is unacceptable.
Members of Congress who support gun owners by opposing all gun control will, in turn, benefit from support by Coalition organizations. Members of Congress who support gun control by any means, procedural or substantive, will be targeted for defeat by Coalition members. They will be subject to picketing, leaflet drops at events in their districts, phone and mail campaigns, and political action committee opposition. NRA ratings and endorsements will have no impact on Coalition actions.
In coming weeks, we look forward to working with you to reduce school violence by allowing lawful citizens in schools and elsewhere to defend themselves against violent predators.
The National Coalition to Stop the Gun Ban
The Firearms Coalition
Jeff Knox, Managing Director
Chris Knox, Director of Communications
Gun Owners of America
Larry D. Pratt, Executive Director
Rights Watch International
F. Paul Valone, Executive Director
Second Amendment Sisters
Marinelle Thompson, President
Lee Ann Tarducci, Director of Operations
Dave Yates, Co-founder
Dave Van, Co-Founder
Arizona Citizens Defense League
Dave Kopp, President
Steve Jones, Chairman
Florida Carry, Inc.
Sean Caranna, Executive Director
Richard Nascak, Executive Director
Grass Roots North Carolina
F. Paul Valone, President
Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, Minnesota
Joe Olson, President
Gun Owners of California
Sam Paredes, Executive Director
Gun Owners of Maine
Shane Belanger, Executive Director
Gun Owners of Utah
Charles Hardy, Public Policy Director
Gun Owners of Vermont
Gary Cutler, Legislative Director
Michigan Gun Owners
Jeff LaFave, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Gary Marbut, President
Nebraska Firearms Owners Association
Wesley Dickinson, President
New Hampshire Firearms Coalition
Jonathan R. Evans, Esq, President
New Jersey 2nd Amendment Society
Frank Flamingo, President
Oregon Firearms Federation
Kevin Starrett, Executive Director
Peaceable Texans for Firearms Rights
Paul Velte, President
Shooters Committee on Political Education, NY
Stephen Aldstadt, President
Utah shooting Sports Council
Clark Aposhian, Chairman
Virginia Citizens Defense League
Philip Van Cleave, President
West Virginia Citizens Defense League
Keith Morgan, President
Western Missouri Shooters Alliance
Kevin Jamison, Press Officer
Wisconsin Carry, Inc.
Nik Clark, Chairman/President
Montana Shooting Sports Association leader decries gun-free zones
Gary Marbut’s phone is ringing all the time these days with calls from national news organizations, along with lawmakers and citizens.
As some gun rights advocates call for increased firearms control, and others clam up entirely, Marbut is the go-to guy for quotes about maintaining the status quo or – better yet, he’d say – loosening gun regulations.
“I hear people say there needs to be a national dialogue about these bad guns,” said Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association. “I would respond to them to say I think there needs to be a national dialogue about the horrible public policy failure of the alleged gun-free zones. That’s the dialogue.”
Marbut is hardly alone in opposing gun-free zones. But for the past few days he’s been largely on his own as a gun advocate speaking openly about his positions in the aftermath of the shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that took the lives of 20 children and six adults.
The National Rifle Association took down its Facebook page after the shooting. The page went back up Tuesday, with a statement from NRA President Wayne LaPierre saying “we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting,” and adding that the NRA will offer “meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” Pierre promised a “major” news conference Friday.
The Newtown-headquartered National Shooting Sports Foundation (not affiliated with Marbut’s group) posted a short statement on its website Friday, the day of the shooting:
“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this horrible tragedy in our community. Out of respect for the families, the community and the ongoing police investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment or participate in media requests at this time.”
On Tuesday, it expanded upon that, pointing out that in a small community like Newtown, “not suprisingly, we had family, friends and acquaintances that were affected. We are weighed down by their heartbreaking stories and the sorrow that has blanketed our community.” That statement reiterated the group’s decision not to publicly discuss the issue.
Marbut said Tuesday that three issues require focus in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre: Perspective. Armed teachers. And gun-free zones.
He’s strongly in favor of the first two, and just as vehemently opposed to the last.
In terms of perspective, he likened the odds of a child being injured by “an insane active shooter” to being hit by lightning. In 2011, 240 people were injured by lightning and 39 died, according to the National Weather Service.
This year, the shootings in Newtown, at a Christian college in California and at a school cafeteria in Oregon killed a total of 36 people.
Marbut suggested that people concerned about protecting children might, “in a more rational world,” want to focus on the far greater risks posed by automobiles and water, he said. The Centers for Disease Control lists accidents as the leading cause of death for people ages 5 to 24. The second-leading cause for those ages 5 to 14 is cancer; for 15- through 24-year-olds, it’s homicide, according to the CDC.
As for arming teachers – and Marbut stressed that should be on a volunteer basis only – “if we believe that the potential for crazy people to shoot up schools is a genuine risk we need to address, then the rational way to do that … is to allow, through public policy, teachers who are willing to undertake the responsibility” to carry.
On Monday, Virginia Gov. Gov. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., told a local radio station that a discussion is needed on arming teachers.
One school district in Texas has been allowing teachers to carry for years. Superintendent David Thweatt told Fox News in 2008 that “we are seeing a lot of anger in society. … When you make schools gun-free zones, it’s like inviting people to come in and take advantage.”
Marbut said such zones defy logic, requiring the belief that “some madman who will ignore the most profound prohibition for any society, the prohibition against taking innocent life … somebody who has crossed all those stark lines would get to the edge of a gun-free zone and think to himself, ‘They have a policy against guns here, so I’d better go home and play computer games.’ ”
“Anyone who believes that,” Marbut added, “needs help.”
When it comes to the Newtown shootings, Marbut said that “like everybody else, I was stunned that a human being could be so crazy as to do something like that.”
That was his first reaction. His second?
“I wish I could’ve been there. If I had been there, it would have been one (victim) and done.”
Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, email@example.com or @CopsAndCourts.
Ashley Rice was raised by hippie parents who taught her guns are not the answer.
Then she moved to Missoula to get her master’s degree, and Montana’s gun culture surrounded her.
It scared her, too.
The Nebraska woman, a firm believer in educating herself, decided that instead of being afraid of guns, she would sign up for a firearms safety course.
The first time she pulled the trigger, she hit the bull’s-eye.
“It was a very strangely empowering thing,” Rice said. “I felt really capable, and I’ve never felt capable through anything outside of education before in my life. That was a really weird thing for me.”
Rice is among the many students who are flocking to Gary Marbut’s firearms safety classes this year. Marbut, a firearms expert and author of “Gun Laws of Montana,” holds three or four full classes in a typical spring.
This year, to keep up with demand for the $100, full-day course, he’s teaching twice as many. So far, he said more than half of his enrollment has been made up of women, and some common themes are boosting the count: uncertainty about the political future, lack of security in the economy, and concerns about sexual predators in Missoula.
“I think all of those three things are causing interest to spike, which I think is good,” Marbut said in a recent interview. “People need to learn how to be responsible for themselves and learn how to be in charge of their personal security.”
As soon as Rice picked up the two books Marbut assigned for a class in May, she started wondering what she was getting herself into.
“I sent him (Marbut) this frantic email. ‘I haven’t even touched a gun before. I’m so scared. Are you sure I can do this?’ ” she said.
And she remembered his response: “Of course you can do this.”
In fact, Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, said women who have no experience with firearms are his favorite students because they’re aces at listening and learning. And learn Rice did.
In the classroom portion of the day, Marbut talked about the power of guns, the reasons for them, the correct ways to treat firearms, and how to take responsibility for owning weapons, Rice said. By the time she headed for the shooting range to fire an actual gun, she felt 100 percent at ease with a concept that once had troubled her.
“He has you so comfortable with the thought of what you’re going to be doing and what you’re holding in your hands, it was easy to pull the trigger the first time,” Rice said.
When her pacifist mom learned she was taking the course, her mom texted her a joke about guns. But Rice believes her dad and brother, a U.S. Marine, are proud she’s become knowledgeable about guns.
Rice doesn’t plan to buy her own firearm anytime in the near future, and neither does Rachael Sparks, who also took the class this spring. Sparks, too, was afraid of guns before she enrolled, and she also described feeling “empowered” after taking the class.
Even if she doesn’t ever own a firearm, she now knows how to tell someone to do so safely if she perceives they aren’t; she knows how to get out of harm’s way if she ever needs to remove herself from a dangerous situation that involves a gun; and she knows how to use the firearm safely herself if necessary.
Sparks also knows how to use a gun well, and to her own surprise. The first time she took a shot, she figured it flew off the mark.
“Being the first time I had shot a gun, I was convinced that I had missed the target completely, that it was way up in the hills,” Sparks said.
But that bullet and the rest of her first round went straight through the prime target in her silhouette, which she saved as a souvenir. Friends back home in Massachusetts can’t believe she took a shooting class, but Sparks is glad she did and credits Marbut with making newcomers feel welcome, capable and empowered.
“It’s something I’m very proud that I did,” Sparks said.
Even Montanans who are seasoned with firearms sign up for Marbut’s course. Bruno Friia, who took the class about a year ago, is in no way a newcomer to guns, but he wanted to learn more about them.
“I’ve always been a sportsman. I’ve always had firearms around the house, and I just thought it would be nice to take a formal class, learn all the protocols, and learn all the idiosyncrasies that you don’t learn when you’re learning from your dad or your uncle,” Friia said.
Friia, for instance, has kept a gun in a gun safe at his home. Now, he knows how to have a personal weapon available that’s at home, outside the locked safe, but in a way that’s safe for anyone in the household.
His daughters are familiar with hunting and fishing, and they’re active in their own self-defense, but Friia found the class so beneficial, he wants the 26-year-old twins to take it as well. He said they’ll probably do so this fall.
“He’s a great instructor,” Friia said of Marbut. “He communicates really well, and there’s nothing left to not understand.”
TWG Note: Wondering about the upcoming Montana GOP Primary? Me too. This, from one of the TOP Gun Rights and Freedom Advocates in this Nation, Mr. Gary Marbut. Mr. Marbut is the President of the Montana Shooting Sports Association. We can Thank Mr. Marbut for a plethora of very successful bills, including the Firearms Freedom Act. Mr. Marbut has been a vigilant and diligent proponent for our Second and Tenth Amendments, not just here in Montana, but across this Nation. You can learn more about Mr. Marbut’s efforts and about the Montana Shooting Sports Association by visiting the following sites:
Here is Mr. Marbut’s assessment of the upcoming Montana. You can find the original text at: http://progunleaders.org/MTGOPPrimary.html
The View from MSSA
Usually, after pouring over candidate voting records from previous public service, and examining returned candidate questionnaires, MSSA would like to make an endorsement in a race as important as the one for Governor of Montana.
There are seven Republican candidates facing off in the upcoming Primary Election on June 5th. Historically, to endorse any one candidate, MSSA wants to see one letter grade gap between the endorsed candidate and others, an “A” versus a “C”, or a “B” versus a “D.” (We don’t endorse candidates for the Primary who don’t earn at least a “B” grade.)
In the Republican Primary race for Governor, we simply cannot identify any candidate that is head-and-shoulders better than the rest – with a letter grade gap above the others. So, MSSA will make no endorsement in the Republican Primary for Governor.
If I ended this message right here, I can imagine that most GOP Governor candidates would be satisfied, although maybe some disappointed.
However, I can also imagine many MSSA members saying or thinking, “Come on Gary. You know these candidates. You’ve worked with them, tracked their votes in the Legislature, talked with them, watched their performance, and surveyed them. We need whatever information you can pass along in order to make an intelligent choice in the Primary.” Right.
So, I feel MSSA owes its members at least some information about the various candidates. In lieu of an MSSA endorsement, let me tell you what I know and what I think (I’ll mix the two) about the various candidates.
I tend to want to place political figures on a spectrum from liberal to conservative. Because those are fuzzy terms as commonly used, let me tell you how I define them. I think of a modern (not classic) liberal as a person who tolerates or favors shifting power, choice and money from people to government. I think of a conservative as a person who would prefer to shift power, choice and money from government to people. Those are generally the definitions I will apply here. I will also discuss what is known about each candidate’s position on the right to keep and bear arms, MSSA’s prime focus.
As far as I know, there are no out-and-out liberals in this Republican Primary race, but some appear to be more or less conservative than others. Here’s what I know or believe, working from the most conservative to the least conservative. (BTW, these candidates will ALL probably end up disliking all or parts of my assessment – comes with the turf if I’m to give MSSA members an honest review. I know most of these candidates personally, and count them as friends. I hope they’re still friends after they read my comments.)
Bob Fanning & Joel Boniek
The most conservative of the candidates is Bob Fanning. Fanning has a good grasp of constitutional principles. He’s a firm advocate for states’ rights. He has far more time and energy invested in wolf control than any other candidate, maybe than all candidates combined. Fanning has been a CEO and a member of the Chicago Board of Trade. He understands economics. Fanning returned a great MSSA candidate questionnaire. Bob likes to describe himself as a “Montanan by choice; not by accident.” He moved here over a decade ago to deliberately become a Montanan. Fanning has not previously held any public office in Montana. Bob buys big game tags every year and is an elk hunter. He is not as acquainted with the details and processes of state government as some other candidates. Fanning hasn’t raised a lot of money, and he got off to a late start with is campaign. His running mate is former Rep. Joel Boniek, a philosophically-pure guy who carried the Montana Firearms Freedom Act for MSSA when it passed in 2009. I’d say Fanning’s chances of getting into the Governor’s office are a long shot. He’d have a steep learning curve if he got there, but would be something of a breath of fresh air for Montana in the Governor’s chair.
Ken Miller & Bill Gallagher
Former State Senator Ken Miller is very nearly as conservative as Fanning. Miller also has a strong bent towards states’ rights and individual liberty. Miller has FAR more effort invested in the Governor race than any other candidate. He’s been actively campaigning for over a year and has crisscrossed Montana multiple times meeting locally with any groups of people who wanted to meet him. Ken was Chairman of the state GOP for a cycle, and managed to shake up and out that good-old-boy GOP structure some to make the GOP a more effective organization. As GOP Chairman, he was willing to make more hard decisions than some others who have held the post. When in the Montana Senate, Miller always supported MSSA’s pro-gun bills. Miller returned a very good MSSA candidate questionnaire, although with reservation about MSSA’s proposal to stimulate smokeless powder and primer manufacture in Montana. Ken and his wife Peggy are both big game hunters. Ken grew up in Montana, and has been a successful small business owner in Montana. In statewide polling, Miller continues to run a close second place in terms of support among likely Republican voters. Miller’s running mate is Bill Gallagher, a Helena attorney currently elected to the Montana Public Service Commission. Because both Miller and Gallagher have served in elected public office at the state level, they have a good grasp of how state government works and perhaps, because of that, an enhanced ability to translate Miller’s philosophy into deeds.
I see a bit of a gap on the liberal-to-conservative spectrum between these candidates and the next two.
Neil Livingstone & Ryan Zinke
Neil Livingstone is an interesting guy, albeit a bit mysterious. Although born in Montana, Neil has spent much of his life immersed in the murky world of international business, intelligence and clandestine operations, both in Washington, D.C., and overseas. Livingstone speaks forcefully about his commitment to constitutional principles, and he definitely wishes to roll back what he sees as extreme environmentalists’ suppression of the natural resource industry in Montana. Livingstone returned a fine candidate questionnaire, although he had some un-detailed concerns about MSSA’s “Sheriffs First” proposal. Livingstone has not held elected office in Montana. While expressing strong support for the right to keep and bear arms, Livingstone did select a running mate, State Senator Ryan Zinke, who formerly expressed a very definite opinion that “civilians” should not be allowed to own .50-caliber rifles. Livingstone quickly explains that he and former SEAL commander Zinke have come to terms about .50-caliber rifles, and Zinke now whole-heartedly supports civilian ownership of such firearms, as does Livingstone. Livingstone has a forceful personality. There are concerns expressed by some, however, that he has not spent enough time in Montana in recent years to have a good sense of Montana issues and Montana culture. Livingstone has not hunted in Montana, but says he has hunted in Eurasia and Africa. Livingstone is supported by a number of former high-ranking military and government officials of excellent national repute, many of whom are not Montana residents. Were Livingstone elected Montana Governor, one gets the impression he would kick ass, and that the timid and naysayers would do well to keep out of his way. With his long employment, connections and experience with the federal government, one would hope that his total allegiance would be to Montana, rather than to the federal government or influences from D.C. or elsewhere.
Corey Stapleton & Bob Keenan
Both Stapleton and Keenan are former state senators, both with good conservative credentials, and both of them are known as proven supporters of the right to keep and bear arms – excellent guys. Stapleton is a graduate of Annapolis, a strong recommendation by anyone’s standard. Stapleton did not return MSSA’s candidate questionnaire, but, based on his past votes in the Montana Senate, I believe he would support most of the issues MSSA plans to have before the 2013 Legislature. Because both Stapleton and Keenan have long experience in the Legislature, they also know how state government works and how to translate their philosophy into deeds at the state level. They would also be realistic, even pragmatic, about what a Governor can accomplish. Stapleton’s campaign has not been highly visible. There is a concern that because Stapleton has been (and presumably still is) an officer in the U.S. military, the federal government might be able to “pull rank” and command his loyalty in any disagreement between Montana and the federal government.
Continuing to work from the conservative end of the political spectrum gets us to:
Rick Hill & Jon Sonju
Rick Hill was formerly elected to represent Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives, and his running mate, Jon Sonju, has been in the Montana Senate. Both are experienced hands in the process of politics. Hill is currently thought my many to be the front-runner in this seven-way Republican Primary. He is reported to lead in fundraising, and is known to be supported by many “old guard” Republican figures. Although Hill did not return MSSA’s candidate questionnaire, he did speak to the MSSA Annual Meeting in Helena in March (as did Fanning, Miller and Livingstone), where he expressed strong support for the right to keep and bear arms. It is unknown how this strong expression will translate to the details of MSSA’s legislative agenda in 2013. I expect he would support most of those issues, but with no returned candidate questionnaire and no voting record from the Montana Legislature, that’s just my educated guess. Hill is reputed to occasionally hunt upland game birds. Sonju has been a solid supporter of gun issues in the Legislature, and his family manufactures firearms in the Kalispell area. It is argued by some that the nature of Hill’s work and experience in D.C. and Montana may make him more vulnerable to attacks by the Democrats in the General Election, making it difficult for him to win the General Election, although Democrats will certainly attack whomever becomes the Republican candidate for the General Election. Hill recently released a statement asserting need to better manage wolves to prevent negative impact on game herds. While quite welcome, this recent interest by Hill is seen by some as being a bit late and lacking the strong intent needed to resurrect Montana’s predator-decimated game herds.
Jim Lynch & Al Olszewski
Current Governor Brian Schweitzer (a Democrat) appointed Jim Lynch to be Director of the Montana Department of Transportation. In that office, Lynch says that he has made maintenance of the Montana highway system much more effective and efficient. He wishes to bring the same management techniques to the Governor’s Office. Lynch has been an insider in state government long enough to know how things work, although he hasn’t been involved in the political machinations used to turn eggs into an omelet. Lynch did return a very good MSSA candidate questionnaire, a plus for him, although MSSA puts more credence in a voting record history than in a candidate questionnaire. I know nothing about Lynch’s running mate, Al Olszewski. It is said that Lynch has made numerous political donations on record to Democrat candidates, although that may just be an unspoken job requirement to work for Governor Schweitzer. It is my fuzzy opinion that Lynch is probably a pretty good manager, but I have not heard others who know him speak of his conservative philosophy or credentials.
Jim O’Hara & Scott Swingley
Jim O’Hara is elected as a County Commissioner of Choteau County. He did not return MSSA’s candidate questionnaire. I haven’t met O’Hara and really don’t know anything about Jim or his running mate, Scott Swingley.
I’ve tried seven times to write a conclusion, but I’m just not getting there. I guess you’ll have to draw your own conclusion. I hope this has been helpful.