By: Brenden Boudreau
Before Constitutional Carry was even signed into law by Gov. Greg Gianforte, the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) was already working with lawmakers to expand upon the extensive work accomplished in House Bill 102, sponsored by Republican State Rep. Seth Berglee.
House Bill 102, as originally drafted, included a version of Constitutional Carry that unfortunately left in place bans on permitless concealed carry in government buildings and restaurants that serve alcohol, both locations where permitless open carry was already legal under Montana state law. Also included in HB 102 was a campus carry provision that will allow college-aged adults to legally defend themselves on campus for the first time.
While we viewed House Bill 102 as a major step forward, the National Association for Gun Rights and our members in the Big Sky State made it a top priority to see that Constitutional Carry be equally applied throughout the state, meaning if people can legally carry there openly without a permit, they should be able to carry in that same location concealed without a permit.
As House Bill 102 worked its way through the legislative process, NAGR members and supporters were mobilized by email, postcards, phone calls, and social media ads all designed to urge their lawmakers to apply Constitutional Carry throughout the state equally.
After several weeks of grassroots pressure, the results of our hard work came to fruition when the Senate Judiciary Committee amended House Bill 102 to eliminate the ban on permitless concealed carry in restaurants that serve alcohol.
While it still left in place the ban on permitless concealed carry in government buildings, it was a major gun rights victory to have the ban lifted from restaurants and helped set the table for the cleanup bill that is now working its way through the legislative process.
Removing the ban on permitless concealed carry in restaurants would not have been possible without the overwhelming grassroots pressure created by NAGR members and supporters who made it clear that they wanted House Bill 102 improved upon.
It’s been my experience that the constant pressure to make a bill stronger counteracts the prevailing trend for legislation to get watered-down as it moves its way through the legislative process.
The political establishment is constantly working to moderate legislation as more and more special interest groups attempt to weaken pro-gun bills like House Bill 102. And without gun rights supporters demanding the passage of a strong, clean bill, there is only pressure coming from anti-gun voices.
That is why the National Association for Gun Rights pushes for legislation to be introduced in its strongest version possible and fights like mad against any attempts to water it down. It is also why we actively fight to improve upon weaker legislation to keep it from being made even weaker.
We also believe that gun owners should expect pro-gun legislatures and governors to do as much as possible to advance and restore the Second Amendment in the time they are given in office and not make excuses for not doing more.
With the Montana Legislature only meeting once every two years, it is incumbent upon the Republican-controlled Legislature to send as many pro-gun bills to Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte’s desk by the end of the session.
The political establishment and the institutional gun lobby have a bad habit of setting low expectations, thus setting a low bar of what gun owners should expect of their pro-gun lawmakers to do each session. Too often in state capitols across the country politicians after passing a pro-gun bill will say “Well, we’ve done enough on guns for the year.”
Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the case in Montana this year, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Two days before Gianforte signed House Bill 102, and thus Constitutional Carry into law, Republican State Representative Scot Kerns filed legislation to eliminate the remaining permitless concealed carry bans from state law and to further restrict cities from passing their own anti-gun ordinances.
Kerns filed House Bill 436 on February 16th, and it passed out of the Montana House of Representatives on February 25thby a vote of 66 to 32.
The National Association for Gun Rights worked closely with Rep. Kerns to file this bill and is once again mobilizing the grassroots to finish the job that was started with House Bill 102 by pushing House Bill 436 across the finish line.
Brenden Boudreau is the Director of Field Operations for the National Association for Gun Rights, writing from Michigan. Contact him at email@example.com.