Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Montana Referendum on Preemption, LR-130 Passes. Grassroots Beats Money

 Image screenshot from, cropped and scaled by Dean Weingarten.


In the 2020 general election in Montana, the referendum on firearms preemption, LR-130, passed with 51% of the vote, 296,820 to 285,942.  It was close. Montana went for President Trump with 57% of the vote. 

On LR-130, Bloomberg and surrogates outspent Second Amendment supporters $1,409,439.11 to $50,493.06, or 28 to 1. 

The massive spending wasn't enough to keep the referendum from passing.  

Montana voters have  patched  "loopholes" in the law which allowed local jurisdictions to pass ordinances infringing on the right to keep and bear arms.

Gary Marbut has been the driving force behind Second Amendment activism in Montana. He founded the Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA).  

He explains LR-130 here:  

Two current state laws limit cities’ and counties’ authority to regulate firearms, but they are not enough limitation.  One law, 7-1-111(9), M.C.A., prohibits local governments from using “any power that applies to or affects the right to keep or bear arms.”  BUT, it goes on to say, “‘except that a local government has the power to regulate the carrying of concealed weapons.”  LR-130 will remove this “except” clause from the law.

The other law to be amended by LR-130 is 45-8-351, M.C.A.  This law generally prohibits local gun control, BUT says that for “public safety purposes” a local government may adopt and enforce gun control measures in several ways.  LR-130 will dramatically shorten this list of allowed exceptions.  The net effect is that local governments will still be allowed to regulate unpermitted concealed weapons (people carrying concealed illegally inside city limits) and open carry into buildings owned and occupied by governmental entities.  That’s it.  If LR-130 is successful, local governments will no longer have alleged loopholes to exploit as Missoula tried with its universal background check ordinance and various “gun free zones” concerning “parks” and “public assemblies.”

The MSSA has been an extremely effective organization. They have been the organization most responsible for restoring the right to keep and bear arms in Montana.  Over the last 33 years, MSSA and Gary Marbut have had an exemplary string of successes.

"I knew way in advance there was no way we could match Bloomberg with money. The only tool we could bring was grassroots activism."  Gary Marbut, 8 November, 2020
Gary created a camera ready copy of a pocket card which could be printed at local shops. An activist could have 1000 printed for ten bucks. The copy was made available over the MSSA email network. It went viral in Montana. Gary estimates a quarter million of the cards were distributed, at no cost to MSSA.

The drama started in September of 2016, when Missoula, the second largest city in Montana, perhaps the most leftist, passed an ordinance requiring every firearm sale in the city to be approved of by the government with an FBI National Instant Criminal background Check. The ordinance claimed the loophole allowing local governments to restrict gun ownership from felons and the mentally incompetent allowed this authority.

In 2017, Montana AG Tim Fox ruled the ordinance was invalid under Montana law.

Missoula appealed to the Montana 4th Judicial District Court, where Judge Robert Deschamps held in favor of Missoula, in 2018. The decision was appealed to the Montana Supreme Court. 

While the appeal was being processed in the courts, the legislature acted.

The Montana Legislature passed two bills to remove the "loophole" in early 2019. One bill HB 325, went to Governor Bullock for his signature. The other bill, HB 357, had identical statutory language, but had a contingency clause to put the issue on the ballot, as LR-130, if Governor Bullock vetoed HB 325. Bullock vetoed the bill on 3 May, 2019.

LR-130 was put on the ballot, as allowed by the Montana Constitution, for the 2020 election.  Those pushing for a disarmed population filed a lawsuit against the measure. The Montana Supreme Court ruled the measure was lawful and clearly written, on August 27 of 2019.

After the referendum was approved, the Montana Supreme Court reversed the decision by Judge Robert Deschamps in the District Court in a separate decision. That decision rendered the Missoula ordinance without force, in October of 2019.

LR-130 was still on the ballot for 2020. It strengthened the right to arms in Montana by taking away local governments ability to create a patchwork of ordinances. 

On 3 November, 2020 it passed by more than 10,000 votes.

©2020 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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