HELENA, Mont. (April 27, 2023) – On Wednesday, the Montana Senate gave final approval to a bill that would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to remove a clause restricting concealed carry. The amendment would limit the state’s power to regulate the concealed carrying of firearms and also foster an environment hostile to federal gun control.
Rep. Casey Knudsen (R) introduced House Bill 551 (HB551) on Feb. 14. The bill concerns Article II, Section 12 of the state constitution, which reads:
Right to bear arms. The right of any person to keep and bear arms in defense of 19 his own home, person, and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall not be 20 called in question, but nothing herein contained shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons.”
HB551 would place an amendment on the ballot to remove “but nothing herein contained shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons” from that section. It would also change the phrase “keep or bear arms” to “keep and bear arms.”
Passage of HB551 now places the proposed amendment on the ballot in the November 2024 general election.
On April 4, the House passed HB551 by a 65-33 vote. It then cleared the Senate 33-17, narrowly reaching the two-thirds majority necessary.
Montana legalized permitless carry in 2021. This constitutional amendment would make it more difficult for the state to repeal that law. More generally, it would set the stage to end any state regulation on concealed carry.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL GUN CONTROL
While permitless carry does not directly affect federal gun control, the widespread passage of permitless concealed carry laws in states subtly undermines federal efforts to regulate guns. As we’ve seen with marijuana and industrial hemp, a federal regulation becomes ineffective when states ignore it and pass laws encouraging the prohibited activity anyway.
The federal government lacks the enforcement power necessary to maintain its ban, and people will willingly take on the small risk of federal sanctions if they know the state will not interfere. This increases when the state actively encourages “the market.”
Less restrictive state gun laws will likely have a similar impact on federal gun laws. It will make it that much more difficult for the feds to enforce any future federal gun control, and increase the likelihood that states with few limits will simply refuse to cooperate with federal enforcement efforts.
State actions such as passing HB551 lower barriers for those wanting the option of defending themselves with firearms and encourage a “gun-friendly” environment that would make federal efforts to limit firearms that much more difficult.
Because it is a constitutional amendment, it will bypass the governor and now be sent to voters for approval in 2024.
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