Montana Closer To Declaring Sheriffs Supreme
TWG: You can learn more about “Sheriff’s First” efforts here: http://www.countysheriffproject.org/
Montana moved a step closer Friday to declaring that local sheriffs are the supreme law of the land and trying to nullify any federal crackdown on assault rifles.
The measures were among a slate of gun rights bills that cleared the Legislature’s House Judiciary Committee and now head to the House floor.
Other measures that advanced would let college students bring guns on campus, allow high school students to leave guns locked in their cars, and clear the way for nearly anyone to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
Several of the bills met with staunch opposition from Democrats.
The so-called “sheriffs first” bill says federal agents must get a sheriff’s permission before making arrests or serving warrants — or risk local kidnapping or trespassing charges.
If the bill clears the Republican-controlled House and Senate, it would go directly to voters in 2014. The direct referendum would avoid the potential veto pen of Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat.
Supporters said it is a necessary check on the power of federal law enforcement agencies,
The measure was opposed earlier in the week at a hearing by local law enforcement agencies, and critics have said such a measure most certainly would face a legal challenge.
Opponents, led by Democrats, warned it would threaten the effectiveness of cooperative task forces tracking violent crime and drugs.
“To call the sheriffs in our state the supreme law of the land, I find that absurd,” said Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula. “What is the message we are sending to Montana and the rest of the nation?”
Another bill that cleared committee would bar police from enforcing any federal bans on assault rifles or high-capacity clips. Supporters said it’s necessary to protect gun rights in Montana.
Opponents, who called it an extreme piece of legislation, argued the bill also violates the U.S. Constitution granting the federal government supremacy in such matters.
The panel also advanced a measure allowing the use of silencers while hunting big game, and removing the potential penalty of disturbing the peace for the discharge of a firearm.
The Montana 2013 legislative Session if fast approaching, and once again
MSSA has an aggressive agenda of pro-gun and pro-hunting bills to
introduce and get passed.
GETTING THESE BILLS PASSED WILL REQUIRE YOUR HELP.
The items on MSSA’s Legislative Agenda are pasted below. Please study
them so you are familiar with them. Please redistribute this email to
all your pro-gun friends.
MONTANA SHOOTING SPORTS ASSOCIATION
2013 LEGISLATIVE ISSUES
1. Harmonizing concealed weapon permit (CWP) requirements. Since 1991, a
CWP has not been required for a law-abiding person to carry a concealed
weapon in 99.4% of Montana – outside the limits of cities or towns. With
over a decade of experience that not requiring CWPs for nearly all of
Montana has not created any problems, we propose a bill to harmonize the
law so a permit will no longer be required for a law abiding person to
carry a concealed weapon in the remaining small part of Montana, inside
cities and towns. We intend to leave the permitting process in place, so
citizens who desire them may still obtain CWPs for travel to other
states that recognize Montana CWPs, and for firearm purchases at gun
stores under the federal Brady Law. This change would exclude criminals
from applicability – it would still be illegal for criminals to carry
concealed weapons. It would also close a dump truck-sized loophole in
existing law that allows people to carry firearms openly in the
“prohibited places” of bars, banks and public buildings, but would
exempt law enforcement personnel and actual CWP-holders from “prohibited
2. Smokeless powder and primer production. There is a serious threat to
our right to bear arms because of narrow, monolithic and
federally-controlled manufacture of essential ammunition components,
smokeless powder (propellant), primers and cartridge brass. For example,
there are only two manufacturers of smokeless powder in the U.S., one
plant owned by defense contractor General Dynamics and another owned by
defense contractor Alliant Systems (ATK). All other smokeless powder
used in the U.S. is imported, and subject to immediate and arbitrary
import restrictions. And, General Dynamics and Alliant Systems are
subject to a standard condition of military contracts that 100% of their
production may be commandeered for military use at any time. Without
ammunition, our firearms and our right to bear ammunition are worth
nothing. We propose certain incentives to encourage small-scale
production of ammunition components in Montana. That model includes
offering liability protection to future producers, providing that such
producers qualify for existing state assistance with financing, and will
include a 20-year tax amnesty from start of business, which would give
up zero current tax income to the state but would provide jobs for Montana.
3. Shooting range funding. Montana began using some hunter license money
to make matching grants to develop shooting ranges in 1989. The program
to build safe and suitable places for Montana people to shoot was put
into state law in 1999, as the Shooting Range Development Program
(SRDP). The funds for this program are approved each legislative session
in the appropriations process for the Department of Fish, Wildlife and
Parks budget. There are no general tax revenues used for this program,
only the money hunters pay for licenses. The 2007 Legislature
appropriated $1,000,000 for the SRDP. $600,000 was appropriated in 2009,
and about $650,000 in 2011. We ask that $1,000,000 be appropriated to
the SRDP in the 2013 legislative session, regardless of any FWP
opposition to that level of funding.
4. Overreaction to firearms locked in student vehicles in school parking
lots. An underreported tragedy in Montana is the number of students who
have been disciplined, many expelled, for forgetting that their hunting
rifle was locked in their vehicle, usually from a weekend hunt. When
such a condition occurs in a school parking lot, ill-informed
administrators universally tell reviewing school boards that they have
no choice but to expel offending students because of compelling federal
law. However, unknown to these poorly-informed (or perhaps over-paid)
administrators, federal law on the subject specifically excludes from
consideration any firearm locked in a vehicle in a school parking lot.
About 450 Montana high school students have been expelled, and had their
academic aspirations ruined for life, over this issue. We propose a bill
to clarify for uninformed administrators and misinformed school boards
that firearms locked in a student vehicle does not mandate expulsion.
This bill would NOT deprive school boards of tools to deal with genuine
safety problems, but would clarify that firearms locked in vehicles do
NOT MANDATE student expulsion.
5. Allow safe travel to work and employee property right inside private
vehicles. Employees have a property right to what they choose to carry
in their vehicles, whether Bibles, newspapers, or firearms. Employees
also have a constitutional right to be equipped to provide for their own
personal protection when traveling to and from work. However, many
private employers have made it a termination offense for an employee to
have a firearm locked in the employee’s vehicle if that vehicle is
parked in a company parking lot. Such employers assume no responsibility
for employee safety during travel to and from work. We propose that
employers be prohibited from firing employees only because that employee
has a firearm locked in a privately owned vehicle in a company parking
lot. This bill would require that any such firearms also be out of sight
from outside the vehicle.
6. Self defense legal costs. A few prosecutors use the tactic of
“throwing the book” at persons accused in order to make legal defense
costs so unaffordable that the accused has no choice but to plead guilty
to some prosecutor-approved charges. We propose that, in cases where
self defense is alleged, prosecutors must pay the legal defense costs
associated with any charges that are dropped, dismissed, or for which
the accused is found not guilty.
7. Disorderly conduct – fixing bad law. The existing disorderly conduct
statute in Montana is badly written because it makes it a potential
crime for a person to discharge a firearm, except at an established
shooting range. While inappropriate prosecutions under this existing law
have not been a problem in Montana, it is susceptible to abuse and
should be repaired. Besides, a person could lose their constitutional
right to keep and bear arms for life if convicted of this perceived “gun
crime.” This bill would simply strike the offense of firing firearms
from the disorderly conduct statute.
8. Sheriffs First – Law Enforcement Cooperation. Many Montanans, both
citizens and people in public office, are concerned about the lack of
accountability of federal officers conducting law enforcement operations
in Montana. In Montana, we know the county sheriff and he is elected and
accountable locally. We believe the sheriff is the chief law enforcement
officer in the county, and ought to have the tools to implement that
status. MSSA will offer a bill to require federal officers to obtain the
written permission of the local sheriff before conducting an arrest,
search, or seizure in the sheriff’s county. There are exceptions for
federal reservations, Border Patrol, Immigration and Naturalization
Service, close pursuit, when a federal officer witnesses a crime that
requires an immediate response, if the sheriff or his personnel are
under investigation, and other necessary exceptions. This bill was
passed by the Legislature in 1995, but was vetoed by the Governor.
9. When police may take firearms and how long they may keep them. There
are no clear directions to law enforcement in current Montana law about
under what circumstances law enforcement officers may disarm citizens,
and how long they may keep guns taken. This leaves it up to the
discretion of individual officers to make this call. A few officers
abuse this discretion by insisting on disarming every armed citizen they
encounter – treating citizens like criminals. The right to bear arms the
people have reserved to themselves at Article II, Section 12 of the
Montana Constitution does NOT say “except when in the presence of a law
enforcement officer.” Rather, the Constitution says the right to bear
arms “shall not be called into question …” We propose legislation to
establish some clear but workable rules for under what circumstances and
for how long law enforcement officers may disarm citizens.
10. University system gun bans. The people of Montana have reserved from
government interference the right to keep or bear arms in the Montana
Constitution. The Montana university system is a government entity. The
Montana Constitution gives the Board of Regents broad authority to
manage the affairs of the U. system, but it gives the Board NO authority
whatsoever to suspend, amend or abolish the Constitution and the rights
the people have reserved to themselves from government interference. We
propose a bill that withdraws all authority from the Board of Regents to
restrict firearms on U. system campuses, and then gives back to the U.
system narrowly-tailored authority to adopt certain restrictions that
are sensible and also defensible under recent federal (Heller and
McDonald) and state (Colorado, Oregon and Utah) court cases.
11. Suppressors illegal for poaching. Firearm suppressors do not
“silence” firearms, but suppress somewhat the noise of the muzzle blast.
They do nothing to attenuate the loud crack of the sonic boom as a
bullet breaks the sound barrier all along its flight path. Currently,
firearm suppressors are illegal for hunting. FWP argues this is
necessary for them to be able to catch criminals who poach. We propose a
bill to make use of suppressors illegal for poaching only, but not for
general hunting. Some argue that use of suppressors for hunting is not
“fair chase,” because the hunted animal would not hear the muzzle blast
from a hunter’s rifle. This argument ignores physics – that a rifle
bullet arrives before the sound of the muzzle blast because the bullet
flies faster than the speed of sound. It ignores that a missed shot will
startle the game animal with the nearby sonic boom before any sound of
muzzle blast arrives. Finally, it ignores the common acceptance of “fair
chase” hunting with absolutely silent arrows during archery season.
12. Controlling wolves. Federally-fostered wolves have become a serious
problem in Montana. They are decimating Montana’s valuable herds of
huntable game, killing or impacting an unacceptable amount of livestock
in Montana’s already stressed agricultural community, and are carrying
diseases that may cause serious human and livestock health problems. We
propose again a bill for Montana to take a much more aggressive posture
in managing and controlling wolves.
13. Revise fish and game enforcement laws. Montana game laws are very
different in their application and enforcement than similar criminal
laws in Montana. We propose to adjust Montana fish and game laws so they
conform generally to the standards applied in all other criminal matters
14. Concealed weapon permit list private. Montana people have reserved
the right to privacy to themselves in the Montana Constitution.
Notwithstanding this restriction, the Montana Department of Justice has
been releasing the names of about 30,000 Montanans who hold or have held
concealed weapon permits. This release includes to the Billings Gazette,
and others. In other states, newspapers have published such lists,
making CWP-holders’ residences focused targets for burglars seeking guns
for crime. We propose a bill to prevent release of CWP-holder names
except for law enforcement purposes.
15. No shooting range property tax. The Deer Creek Shooting Center
recently had its property tax bill increase from $246 to over $7,000 in
one year, which is being assessed retroactively for two more years. MSSA
will see introduced a bill to flat exempt all active shooting ranges
from property taxes.
16. Prohibiting enforcement of new federal gun control. Since the school
shooting in Connecticut, Senator Diane Feinstein has promised to
introduce federal legislation to reassert the 1994 federal “assault
weapons” ban, to cause semi-auto firearms to be classified as machine
guns under the National Firearms Act, to require registration and
licensing of most gun owners, and much more. MSSA’s bill in response to
this will prohibit all state and local authorities from enforcing or
aiding in enforcing any such new federal gun control.