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Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock is supporting a bill before the US Senate which validates concealed weapons permits across state lines. Bullock recently signed a letter supporting the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act along with 21 other state Attorney’s General. Montanans would follow Montana laws on concealed carry in other states. That also means carriers from other states would follow their laws in Montana.
Bullock says the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act recognizes all Montanans have a fundamental right to self-defense. He says that right shouldn’t disappear just because a Montanan crosses the border into another state making “sure that Montanan’s with their concealed carry permit can go into the other state’s carrying their firearm.”
The national non-profit Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence opposes the legislation.
Vice President Dennis Henigan makes it a state’s rights argument. He calls it outrageous for a state Attorney General to stand behind it.
“This is a piece of federal legislation that would make Montana’s laws concerning concealed carry unenforceable,” he said.
To get a concealed carry permit in Montana you have to show evidence of some kind of training—like a hunter safety course. You need to undergo a criminal background check, too. The state denies permits to those convicted of certain crimes. Henigan argues other states may have less strict requirements.
“I would think that the Attorney General’s first responsibility would not be to the concealed carry holders in Montana that might want to travel to other states,” he said, “but rather to the residents of Montana whether they are gun owners or not, whether they are concealed carry holders or not, who have an interest in preserving Montana’s laws.”
Attorney General Bullock says yes, other states might have looser requirements for concealed carry. However, Montana already accepts those permits.
“For out of state carriers coming in, as long as they’ve had that background check, we would recognize it anyway,” Bullock said.
So Montana supporters of this National Right to Carry Act say it can’t encroach on our state sovereignty because our state law already allows it.
On the Department of Justice website, it says, “Non-residents must meet the following criteria to carry a concealed weapon in Montana:
- The state that issued the permit must require a criminal records background check before issue.
- The permit must be in the holder’s possession.
- The permit holder must have a photo ID
There are six states, plus the District of Columbia, that do not expressly require background checks for concealed carry permits. Permits from those states are not valid here.
Would they be if the National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act passes? Well, yes, but here’s the deal– in order to comply with that act, the carrier has to comply with federal gun law. Federal gun law requires a background check.
“Under Federal Law, to buy, possess or transfer firearms there’s certain requirements,” Bullock said. “You know, you can’t have a felony conviction of over a year and certain numerated crimes. Those are the same that we check for our backgrounds as well.”
The National Right to Carry Reciprocity Act passed the U.S. House last November by a 272 to 154 vote. A version now waits for action in the Senate.
Montana’s full congressional delegation supports the bill.