March 12, 2021
Dear Senator Tester,
Senator Feinstein has reintroduced her bill to ban "assault
Allow me to explain what an "assault weapon" ban means in Montana.
The rifles that are spoken of in some circles as "assault weapon"
are referred to in the Montana gun culture as "modern sporting
rifles" (MSRs). They are sometimes specified by the anti-gun
crowd as firearms that have certain cosmetic features deemed
bad. These cosmetic features include such things as a
carrying handle like a suitcase, a device on the muzzle to reduce
the light of muzzle flash from unburned propellant, a shoulder
stock that may be adjusted in length to fit a small or large
person, an ammunition carrying device that can be detached from
the rifle, and a hand grip that is like the grip of a revolver or
pistol instead of like a conventional rifle. MSRs will also
fire once each time the trigger is pulled, just like double-action
revolvers in use for over a century.
While this constellation of cosmetic features may make MSRs seem
bad to those unfamiliar with firearms, Montana gun owners see
these features as benign and useful. The grease gun I use to
lubricate my tractor has many of the same features. Where
some may pejoratively call MSRs "weapons of war," no military in
the World uses these rifles for war. Montanans use them for
home defense, competitive shooting, plinking, and hunting (I
harvested my last two elk with one of these).
MSRs, rifles sometimes called "assault weapons" just to make them
seem bad, are rarely used in crime or to actually "assault"
anyone. They are the most popular type of rifle in the U.S.
today. There are literally millions of MSRs legally in
private possession and in use in the U.S. and Montana today.
MSRs are usually less powerful than the common bolt-action rifles
that, without the MSRs' cosmetic features, many Montanans have
historically used for hunting.
So, MSRs are not especially powerful, are very popular, are not
"weapons of war," and are very rarely used to "assault"
anyone. Not only would a federal law to ban MSRs be
offensive to the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it
would be extremely unpopular in Montana where legal possession of
MSRs is very common.
Please oppose any restrictions on MSRs.
Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana