March 12, 2021

Dear Senator Tester,

Senator Feinstein has reintroduced her bill to ban "assault weapons."

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.

Sincerely yours,

Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana