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Attorney General Fox strikes down Missoula gun ordinance

January 27, 2017

Missoula Independent

January 26, 2017

A hotly contested Missoula city ordinance that extends background checks to private gun sales is prohibited by state law and may not be enforced, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox has ordered. Fox issued his opinion Thursday in response to a request last fall by Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen of Culbertson. The attorney general had previously stated his opposition to the ordinance. The nine-page opinion concludes that the city ordinance, which requires a federal background check for most private gun sales and transfers within city limits, violates a state law prohibiting local governments from regulating citizens’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Ordinance proponents have pointed to an exception in the law that allows municipalities to¬†“prevent and suppress … the possession of firearms by convicted felons, adjudicated mental incompetents, illegal aliens and minors.” Fox, however, determined that the exception refers only to “specific situations involving the use and possession of firearms,” while the Missoula ordinance’s “dragnet approach” inappropriately regulates all sales and transfers within city limits. The city’s interpretation of the law, he wrote, would render it meaningless by allowing the exceptions to “completely swallow” the general prohibition.

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