Montana Shooting Sports Association
News Release concerning the "Montana Resolution"

(for immediate release - February 19, 2008)

Montana Officials Concerned Over Statehood Contract Violation
Supreme Court could violate statehood contract in Heller decision

MISSOULA - Numerous elected Montana officials have concurred in a Resolution asserting that a case before the U.S. Supreme Court could violate Montana's contract for statehood.  These officials include Montana's lone Congressman Denny Rehberg and Montana Secretary of State Brad Johnson.  The court is reviewing D.C. v. Heller, the first occasion in over 60 years that the Court will consider whether the Second Amendment secures an individual right or merely grants states the power to arm their National Guards, called the "collective rights" view.

The Montana Resolution (at cautions that a collective rights decision would violate the Montana contract for statehood because when that contract was entered the collective rights interpretation had not yet been invented and the individual rights view was an accepted part of the contract.  A letter to the editor from Montana Secretary of State Brad Johnson was printed today (2/19) in the Washington Times making this argument and citing the Montana Resolution. (Letter)

Montana Shooting Sports Association president Gary Marbut commented, "A collective rights decision in Heller would not only violate Montana's contract for statehood, but also Montana's customs, culture and heritage.  We hope the Supreme Court will recognize and credit the contract argument, an argument unmentioned in any of the briefs submitted in the Heller case."

The Montana contract for statehood is archived at Article I of the Montana Constitution as the Compact with the United States.  At the time the Compact was agreed upon between Montana and the U.S., Congress approved the Montana Constitution which included the right of "any person" to bear arms, clearly an individual right.  The Montana right of "any person" to bear arms and the effect of the Second Amendment were considered to be consistent with each other, both securing individual rights.

Contracts must be implemented so as to effect the intent of the parties to the contract.  A collective rights decision by the Court could also call into question the sanctity of contracts, considered to have been a bedrock principle of law for centuries.  Although many amicus briefs have been submitted in the Heller case, none have articulated the statehood contract issue.

Montana accepted and was admitted into statehood in 1889.  Several convergent events were necessary for Montana statehood.  The Enabling Act of Congress required that Montana adopt an acceptable constitution.  In response to this requirement, Montana adopted the statehood constitution of 1889.  This constitution reserved the right of "any person" to bear arms, which was unchanged in the 1972 revision of the Montana Constitution.  Montana was required to pass Ordinance 1, a part of which entailed Montana's acceptance and adoption of the U.S. Constitution, including the Second Amendment as it is still worded today.

Congress gave authority to President Benjamin Harrison to determine that Montana had met the congressionally-mandated eligibility requirements for statehood. President Harrison declared in writing that Montana had met the requirements established by Congress, including an acceptable constitution.  In his presidential declaration, President Harrison said that, "... the conditions imposed by Congress on the State of Montana to entitle that State to admission to the Union have been ratified and accepted ..."  By that presidential declaration, the contract was consummated, and remains in effect today.

That the Second Amendment was understood in 1889 to secure an individual right to bear arms is confirmed by the acceptance of the Montana Constitution's right for "any person" to bear arms, and the accepted compatibility between that Montana right and the Second Amendment.  That Montana has a contract with the United States is documented in Article I of the Montana Constitution.  That a contract must be interpreted and implemented consistent with the understanding and intent of the parties at the time the contract was entered into is a bedrock principle of contract law.

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                Gary Marbut, 406-549-1252
                Montana Shooting Sports Association