Missoula Gun Background Check Ordinance Illegal

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Montana’s Attorney General says Missoula’s gun background check ordinance violates Montana state law.


Originally reported January 26 by Taylor Winkel, NBC Montana


“Missoula’s ordinance is outside of its authority,” Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said. Fox issued an opinion saying state law does not allow cities to exercise any power that affects the right to bear arms.

Tim Fox
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox

The ordinance in question was passed in September 2016. It requires private sellers to complete a background check before selling a gun. That means if you’re a gun owner and want to sell your firearm to a friend or colleague, you’re required to run a background check on the buyer, which means the paperwork must be handled by a federally-licensed firearms dealer.

“If there’s going to be one more extra step for somebody to get a gun that can harm somebody, either on purpose or on accident, I think ‘why not’ and create a safer environment for everyone if possible,” Jack Dawson, a Missoula resident told NBC Montana. Missoula City Council member Bryan Von Lossberg sponsored the legislation. He said that he is not surprised by the Attorney General’s decision but does not see a “clear path of appeal.” Von Lossberg says he believes the ordinance is effective and necessary but expected the ruling as the Attorney General had made his position “clear” long before the AG’s ruling was issued.

Von Lossberg also said the council was advised the ordinance was within the law by the city attorney, Jim Nugent. “He absolutely was consulted and issued an opinion making it clear the city was absolutely in its rights to pass this,” explained Von Lossberg.

The attorney general didn’t directly comment on what the city of Missoula needs to do with the ordinance, but did say common sense would be to stop enforcing the ordinance. Right now, Von Lossberg says there’s no immediate plan to appeal the Attorney General’s opinion.

Fox noted Missoula does have certain powers as a charter city, saying it does have the authority to regulate the use and carrying of firearms under state law. However, Fox says state law doesn’t allow Missoula to have an ordinance “enforcing a local regulation or ordinance requiring background checks on firearm sales or transfers within its borders.”

Montana passed a state preemption law thirty years ago to prevent a patchwork of contradictory firearms laws from being enacted across the state. The state previously allowed cities to make their own laws regarding firearms sales, Fox wrote in his opinion, but a 1985 House bill repealed that section of the MCA and replaced it with new language that still is in place. “The purpose of HB 643 was clear — only the state should decide how firearm purchases, sales, and transfers should be regulated, if at all.”


Click here to read the full legal opinion from Attorney General Tim Fox.

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12 thoughts on “Missoula Gun Background Check Ordinance Illegal”

  1. Visited Missoula a couple of years ago interested in an area to retire to. NOPE! Might as well have been in San Francisco or Portland.

    1. I was born in Montana. Even in the 70’s Missoula was known for a far left bastion of the loony fringe. University town with lots of California-type teachers. What can you expect. Washington state has Seattle. Oregon has Portland. Montana has Missoula. Fortunately, Missoula does not control the vote in Montana like Portland and Oregon do in their states.

    2. So-called “Gentrification” is a slow acting poison for cities and neighborhoods. Existing structures are “upgraded” and sold for ridiculous amounts of money, thus raising the property taxes on the entire area. People leave for lower taxes and fewer restrictions, causing high vacancies. These are taken over by squatters, crashing the worth of the area but not affecting the property taxes… Result, the “Gentry” leave and the area becomes a slum. And during all this, the City only sees the prospect of more money from taxes, not the risk of slumnification (sic). Ultimate result: the City has less income, higher crime, and a reputation of being arrogant.
      Everybody loses. Watch San Francisco; it’s happening there, now.

  2. The city was told by police that this ordinance would be impossible to enforce, but they did it anyway. They new they would come up against state law, but they did it anyway. Missoula is not a center of crime, but they did it anyway. They did because they felt it was the right thing to do even though no evidence showed it was even necessary.

    Typical liberal democrats.

    1. Democrats is a term wrongly used for this gang, they should be calling themselves Czar-o-crats like the monarchy of old Russia, and we know how that ended.

  3. I always thought that the people of Montana were smarter that this nonsense. Criminals don’t follow the law. Maybe this jackwagon is a transplant from either the east or west coast.

  4. These kinds of things are happening everywhere. People flock to small to medium size cities/towns to get away from the big cities to get away from all of the problems. But then what do they do, bring all of the big cities liberal rules/regulations/laws of the big cities, slowly destroying the towns . It is like these people just can not think past their noses.
    With their liberal attitudes, like Missoula, the people running these small cities/towns get greedy and actually destroy their townstowns

  5. More California cancer trying to spread over the country. They want to secede from the union, I hope they do, then We the People can build a wall around the whole rotting state.

  6. Glad to see the good people of MT aren’t about to be saddled with this liberal/progressive nonsense. It’s a real shame how so many rural places have gotten railroaded by idiotic laws such as this over the past few years. Bloomberg and his ilk won’t rest until they’ve stripped as much freedom away from folks as they possibly can.

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