Governor Bullock's Veto Message for HB 325
Governor Bullock's veto message for HB 325.
Governor Bullock's veto message for HB 325 is so laden with and
influenced by distrust of and hate for Montana gun owners that
comment is difficult. In addition to any actual public policy
positions announced by the document, the word choices, (lack of)
logic, and (lack of) truth work together to demonstrate this
document to be a political rant with only distant connection to
Here are the specifics:
1. In his second paragraph, Bullock says: "House Bill 325 would
end local decision-making about whether felons and the mentally
ill can carry weapons in public." First, local governments in
Montana have had no real authority over this for decades because
it is illegal under federal law for both of these classes of
people to possess firearms. Withdrawing the pretense of local
government control over this has no affect on the illegality of
the practice under federal law.
Second, the assumption that a person intending violence would
ignore various federal and state felony-level laws prohibiting
that conduct but would be deterred by an obscure city ordinance
making the conduct a misdemeanor is so strained as to call into
question the mental health of the person making the assumption.
This problem and flaw applies to much of Bullock's veto message.
Third, Bullock's use of "can carry" implies that local governments
would be able to universally enforce such a gun control ordinance.
That's just ludicrous. Is the city council going to instruct
police to stop every person in a public place and interrogate them
about their mental health and criminal history, and then search
them for possible firearms? Obviously not, so this is really about
permission, not practice. Therefore, the apolitical, grammatical
way Bullock should have stated this is "may carry", not "can
Fourth, the choice and use of the word "weapon", as if it were
synonymous with "firearm", is deliberately and highly pejorative.
The word "weapon" assumes an offensive purpose. A rock, a baseball
bat, a fist, or a car can all be used as weapons. 99.9% of all
firearms use is not weaponized. Bullock might as well have
announced in writing, "I don't like firearms so I'm going to
assume they're evil and I will make them sound as bad as I can."
2. Bullock says: "It would also end local decision-making about
concealed weapons." First, Title 7 of the Montana Codes Annotated
is all about limiting the power of local governments, and it is
one of the longest, most complicated Titles in the M.C.A. Since
local governments are created by state law, it is political
appropriate that the powers of local government would also be
limited by state law. Otherwise, local governments would be able
to impose the death penalty for jaywalking or take peoples'
property and give it to members of the city council. Therefore, it
is totally consistent with our historic and current scheme of
government for state law to constrain the powers and actions of
local government. When local governments demonstrate abuse of the
powers granted under state law, it is proper and typical that the
Legislature would enact legislation to curb such abuse, as with HB
325 and Missoula (and some other cities).
Second and consistent with this, state law holds that all
decision-making about which individual is granted a concealed
weapon permit is left in the hands of the local, elected county
sheriff. So, this statement by Bullock is factually incorrect.
Third, HB 325 would allow local governments to retain complete
authority over "unpermitted concealed weapons." Because of that
fact, this statement by Bullock is also factually incorrect.
3. Bullock says: "Both changes are dramatic departures from
Montana history." Simply not true. Montana has limited the powers
of local governments since Montana was a territory, including with
the Territorial Constitution of 1884.
4. Bullock says: "Neither is good policy." Obviously Bullock's
opinion. However, a conclusion based on false assumptions is
illogical and unlikely to be correct.
5. In his third paragraph, Bullock argues essentially that laws
and political philosophy acceptable in California should be
applied in Montana. This rationale may be good political fodder
for someone wishing to run for national office, but it is far from
mainstream in Montana.
6. In his fourth paragraph, Bullock misdirects the meaning of the
Montana Constitution. Yes, Article II, Section 12 does provide an
archaic (1884) exclusion of carrying concealed weapons from the
Right to Keep or Bear Arms, but it confers no authority whatsoever
upon local governments. Consistent with the Montana Constitution,
regulation of concealed firearms has always been at the discretion
of state law from the Legislature. So, Bullock is wrong again in
this paragraph, although he makes a clever, lawyer's attempt to
misdirect the discussion.
7. In the fifth paragraph, Bullock asserts a conclusion based on
the misdirection of the fourth paragraph, an incorrect claim that
the Montana Constitution somehow confers authority over concealed
weapons to local governments.
Bullock also claims, "Bizarrely, the bill even bars local
governments from regulations that would facilitate existing
prohibitions on gun ownership by convicted felons and the mentally
ill." See the second and third comment under item 1. above. One
may presume that what the grammatically-challenged Bullock meant
was not "ownership" but "possession." Again, possession of
firearms by felons and those adjudicated mentally incompetent is a
felony under federal law. And again, it may be indicative of need
for mental health assistance for anyone to make the assumption
that a person not deterred by federal law with felony-level
consequences would be deterred by an obscure city ordinance making
the same conduct a local misdemeanor.
8. In his sixth paragraph, Bullock actually makes an argument FOR
HB 325. Basically, Bullock admits that local governments have been
abusing the powers allowed them under the Montana Constitution and
state law since 1885. Because of that, it's high time the
Legislature stepped in and restricted that admitted local
9. In the last, seventh paragraph, Bullock crosses clearly over
the double yellow and into oncoming traffic with a
counter-factual, political rant. Wanting to ramp up the emotional
octane of his veto, Bullock says, "House Bill 325 does something
else, eliminating local control over whether the mentally ill may
bring guns into schools ..." In this, Bullock (allegedly a law
school graduate) ignores the existence of federal law and ignores
the existence of an unaffected Montana law specifically
prohibiting firearms in schools without school board permission
(45-8-361, M.C.A.). This statement is pure political theater.
Bullock also says, "These are decisions that Montanans have long
entrusted to their local governments." The very point of HB 325 is
that local governments have violated any historic trust by
enacting ordinances that abuse and violate current law and limited
powers allowed to local governments. Because of that, a clear
majority of the Legislature, the peoples' representatives, deemed
it necessary to rein in abusive local governments with HB 325.
Conclusion. Of course, the ugly truth is that Bullock and those
who agree with him have no hope or intention that local gun
control ordinances will actually deter serious criminals. Their
target for such restrictions is Average Joe, who never misuses his
firearms but who is always the first to be blamed by the anti-gun
crowd when some criminal commits mayhem with a firearm (they're
ever so silent about non-firearm mayhem). Bullock and his
sycophants would be most pleased if all firearms in private
possession could be made to disappear, making all people totally
dependrnt on police and other government agents for their safety
and security. Short of that impossible disappearing act, Bullock
would be pleased for all local governments to gradually restrict
common citizens' use and possession of firearms, meanwhile
bragging benevolence and safety for the restrictions. Let's be
honest and name Bullock's favor for patchwork local gun control as
creeping tyranny, an incremental effort to reduce us all gradually
to powerless servants of government. That is what's between the
lines of Bullock's veto message for HB 325.
Because HB 325 and HB 357 are identical, it is anticipated that
the disingenuous claims made by Governor Bullock in his veto
message for HB 325 will be recycled and used in attempt to defeat
HB 357 when it appears on the ballot in November of 2020.
[UPDATE: HB 357 will be LR 130 on the November General Election
Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana