Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
Montana’s lone U.S. representative this week has joined the battle to increase or ensure gun control rights, cosponsoring a bill that would increase people’s ability to carry a concealed weapon into other states. “Second Amendment rights shouldn’t disappear when you cross a state’s borders,” Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., said in a press release. “Under current law, a Montanan who legally carries a concealed weapon becomes a criminal by the simple act of crossing the wrong state border. As far as I’m concerned, the only crime is the failure of the federal government to protect folks’ Constitutional rights.” A similar bill, sponsored by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., has been referred to the U. S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Rehberg’s endorsement comes during a flurry of gun rights activity by Montana’s state and federal legislators. Earlier this week, Montana’s Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stating they would oppose any legislation that “would infringe upon the rights of individual gun owners.” Instead, the senators wrote, the U.S. Justice Department should enforce existing laws. A series of bills are pending in the Montana Legislature covering gun rights. House Bill 246, introduced by Rep. Joel Boniek, R-Livingston, would exempt Montana-made firearms kept within Montana’s borders from federal regulation. The bill would also exempt firearm ammunition and accessories made and sold in the state. The bill, which passed a second reading in the House on Feb. 14 64-36, is scheduled for a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee on Monday. Another firearms bill, HB 228, would allow Montanans to carry concealed weapons inside city limits without a permit and expand their right to display or use the weapons in self defense. The bill, introduced by Rep. Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel, passed the House on a 60-40 vote and is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 17. A resolution sponsored by Rep. Wendy Warburton, R-Havre, also is awaiting a hearing in the Senate. House Joint Resolution 14 expresses the support of the Montana government for regulations allowing Montanans carrying firearms in National Parks and opposing court actions limiting that ability. The resolution passed the House 81-14 and is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, also on March 17. The bill Rehberg is co-sponsoring, introduced by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., on Jan. 6, would allow a person with a valid permit to carry a concealed firearm to carry the concealed weapon in any other state as long as the person meets certain criteria, Rehberg’s press release said. The bill would not create a federal licensing system but would require states to recognize each other’s concealed weapons permits, as they do for drivers licenses, the release said. The move by Rehberg received some support in the Montana Legislature as well. “As a Montana legislator and a concealed carry permit holder, I wholeheartedly support Denny’s endorsement of this common-sense legislation,” Montana Rep. Ed Butcher, R-Winifred, said in the release. “The right to bear arms, particularly the right to a concealed carry permit, is a key issue for many Montanans both personally and professionally. This is especially important to me as I travel extensively in my consulting business and, as a 30-year concealed weapon permittee, I carry a handgun.” National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act: HR 197.