Missoula’s proposed gun ordinance restricting sales hit a possible snag Thursday. The state’s attorney general thinks it’s unconstitutional.
The ordinance aims to require background checks for all private gun sales. There are a few exceptions — antique firearms, guns sold within a family and for temporary use while hunting.
People will have to meet with a federally licensed dealer for the background check and to finalize the deal.
Sen. Steve Daines, Rep. Ryan Zinke and Montana Attorney General Tim Fox are three of the top Republican officials putting pressure on the Missoula City Council over the ordinance.
“Contrary to the opinion of the City Attorney, whom I respect,” Fox said in a released statement, “I believe that Missoula’s proposed gun control ordinance is prohibited by state law and likely violates our constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
Daines and Zinke sent a joint letter to the mayor of Missoula and the city council:
“It is essential that policies at every level of government uphold the rights granted to all Americans under the U.S. Constitution. Therefore we feel obligated on this rare occasion to express our opposition to the misguided ordinance, which would create unnecessary burdens on law-abiding Montanans while proving ineffective in preventing violent crime.”
“I am surprised the Attorney General issued his statement as a press release,” said City Council Member Marilyn Marler. “To my knowledge he hasn’t released a legal opinion.”
The council will be holding a public hearing on the gun control ordinance on Monday, Oct. 19.
Marler says there has been some misinterpretation of the ordinance.
“The ordinance isn’t to ban private gun sales in Missoula. The ordinance is just to require background checks on private gun sales. It is the same requirement for when someone wants to buy from a licensed dealer.”
Hayes Otoupalik, a longtime Missoula resident and chairman of the Missoula gun show for the last 47 years, is against the ordinance.
“I think the city council members have good intentions, but it isn’t guns that are the problem, and it isn’t access to guns that is the problem,” he said. “What the council members need to be spending their time and energy on is finding a way to get funding for mental health care and facilities.”
Marler says one council member already intends to send the ordinance back to committee, and there will likely be no council decision at Monday’s hearing.