Missoula, Montana, is putting emergency restrictions on guns, citing Tuesday’s elections as its cause for action.
The City Council last month approved ordinances that ban guns at all polling places, schools, parks, museums, libraries and the city council chambers, Montana Public Radio noted.
The laws are identical, except that the council needed to pass one as an emergency in order to have it in effect right away. The non-emergency law takes effect in mid-November, 30 days from council approval.
Missoula formerly had a law banning guns at City Hall and public schools. Now, the ordinance will ban guns anywhere the City Council meets or at public assemblies, museums, the public library, some public parks and “any other locations of public assembly where persons gather together to conduct and/or administer any public election while election-related activities are taking place.”
When the new legislation was passed, council member Heather Harp said the expansion of the places where guns were banned made sense.
“When talking about firearms, people’s lives are at stake,” Harp said, according to The Missoulian. “There’s so much violence in the world. We are a country that continues to be a place that allows citizens access to guns, and none of us are talking of taking that away. We just want places where they are limited.”
When the council voted 8-3 to enact the expanded ban, it did so despite the objections of citizens who felt it was a mistake. Although the council operates on a non-partisan basis, The Missoulian has noted that it has a “progressive” tilt.
“These are not people in our society we need to be restricting their opportunities and their freedoms,” said citizen Steve Tidwell.
“Criminals are still going to be criminals. Responsible folks will still be responsible whether they carry a weapon or not. To me this is a needless ordinance and will only restrict people from going to public places where they should be there to protect others and themselves,” he said.
However, both sides were represented when the council acted, as reported by KPAX.
“I urge you to pass this amendment, to make all the citizens of Missoula safe as we go to the polls to vote. As we enjoy our public parks, and as we testify before you here,” said Jean Larson of Moms Demand Action.
One speaker who opposed the law said he believes in protection.
“I have no desire to use my weapon to protect someone else, just myself. It’s not my responsibility, it’s theirs. Nor, do I want to be a complement to local law enforcement and the sheriff employees. I’ve never drawn my gun on a person and I pray I never will,” said Mike Stramer.
Missoula’s restrictive policies on guns include a requirement that all private gun sales include a background check, the Great Falls Tribune reported.
Last month, District Judge Robert Deschamps threw out what had been a legally binding opinion from state Attorney General Tim Fox that had held enforcement of the law in abeyance.
“By invalidating the City of Missoula’s Ordinance, the Attorney General’s opinion deprives Missoula of its own authority,” Deschamps wrote.
“The question goes beyond just the simple issue of background checks for us. It’s a question of the power of local government as provided through the Constitution and our charter,” said Missoula Mayor John Engen, a Democrat, according to KECI.