March 13, 2021

Dear Senator Tester,

Senator Feinstein's new bill would ban what she refers to as "high capacity magazines."

I'd like to explain the impact of a ban on "high capacity magazines" in Montana.

First, those with little knowledge of firearms may call these "high capacity magazines," but we in the Montana gun culture speak of them as "standard capacity magazines" (SCMs).  After all, these are the magazines that have always been shipped to Montana with the firearms that use them.

Second, there are plenty of reasons why any attempt to ban SCMs would be a really bad political idea or unworkable in Montana.

1.  Surely any such ban would be in conflict with the Second Amendment.  The U.S. Supreme Court has already affirmed that the Second Amendment does not apply only to the flintlock muzzleloading rifles that our Founders used to win our freedom from Britain.  The Second Amendment prevents government interference with modern arms as well as antique arms.  And, SCMs are clearly a common accessory to modern firearms.  If the Second Amendment doesn't apply to modern arms, then surely the First Amendment cannot apply under freedom of the press to the computers relied upon in every news room across the U.S.  It would be back to quill and ink for all journalists and newspaper publishers.

2.  Passing unenforceable laws simply breeds disrespect for the law.  There are LOTS of SCMs legally possessed in Montana, at least hundreds of thousands if not millions.  In other states that have enacted magazine limitations, there has been remarkably low compliance with bans.  Compliance in Montana, certainly, would be even less than California, for example.  Plus, we know that Montana law enforcement officers will be reluctant to enforce any such ban, and they may actually soon become prohibited by Montana law from enforcing any such ban.  Thus, a ban on SCMs would only cause Montana people to hold such an unenforceable federal law in contempt, which disrespect would likely spill over onto other enforcement of federal laws.

3.  A ban would be unaffordable in Montana, maybe deliberately so.  Some proposals would redefine SCMs as items subject to the National Firearms Act, which would place a $200 tax on each SCM.  At a rough guess, there are at least 500,000 SCMs in Montana (there could be a lot more).  That would total to a tax of $100,000,000 ($100 million) on Montana gun owners.  Montana gun owners simply couldn't and wouldn't pay that tax.  Plus, even though legislation introduced to ban SCMs ostensibly would not apply to those possessed when the act becomes effective, there is no way for a possessor to prove a pre-act possession.  So, notwithstanding the alleged "grandfathering," that simply wouldn't work.

4.  Existing SCMs cannot comply with ban.  Any proposal to cause SCMs to be considered an NFA item would require registration of those, by serial number.  SCMs do not have serial numbers.  Therefore, there could be no possible compliance.  Plus, it now takes the BATFE most of a year to issue a tax stamp for those who pay the existing $200 tax for the relatively small number of NFA items being registered.  If millions of SCMs were added to that paperwork queue, it would take the BATFE decades or even centuries to process the applications at their current rate.

5.  What about a government "buyback" of SCMs?  Only something that has been previously owned can be bought back.  The federal government never owned SCMs currently possessed in the thousands by Montana gun owners.  So, the concept of a "buyback" is a lie to begin with.  Therefore, this idea must be called what it is proposed to be - a mandatory government confiscation with some possible compensation to those few who will participate.  How soon will the federal government propose a mandatory "buyback" of noncompliant churches, media outlets, or fossil-fueled vehicles?

Jon, what may be suitable for Senator Feinstein's home state of California or Senator Schumer's home state of New York is simply not suitable for Montana and not politically acceptable here.  We know that and you know that.  Please oppose any restrictions on SCMs.


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