MT City Bans Firearms In Public Places Amidst Concerns About Polling Locations
Missoula, MT – The Missoula City Council passed two firearms bans on Oct. 15 despite the objections of many 2nd Amendment advocates in the community.
"These are not people in our society we need to be restricting their opportunities and their freedoms," gun advocate Steve Tidwell said at the meeting, according to the Missoulian.
"Criminals are still going to be criminals. Responsible folks will still be responsible whether they carry a weapon or not,” Tidwell continued. “To me, this is a needless ordinance and will only restrict people from going to public places where they should be there to protect others and themselves."
The new ordinances passed the city council 8 to 3, and banned firearms in all polling places and developed city parks, Missoula Current reported.
The ordinances also prohibited firearms in Missoula City Council chambers or any other buildings where the city council might meet, including public museums, public schools, and the public library.
The prohibitions against carrying firearms, whether concealed or unconcealed, is not new and has been a rule for decades, according to the Missoula Current.
It wasn’t until some polling locations needed to be moved from public school property due to ongoing construction that concerns about codifying the rules came up.
The Missoula Current reported that election administrators had concerns that some citizens might think it was perfectly legal to carry their weapons into non-school polling places.
"It was brought to our attention that the county attorney’s office fields quite a few questions from the public about concealed carry in certain places, including polling places," said Councilmember Julie Merritt, who proposed the changes in September as both an emergency amendment and an update to an existing city ordinance, according to the Missoulian.
The Missoula County Attorney’s Office wanted the rules clarified ahead of the Nov. 6 election so that there would be no ambiguity for law enforcement officers, according to the Missoula Current.
The new ordinances took existing rules and turned them into laws that could be enforced by police.
Previous laws only banned weapons and explosive devices in City Hall and public school buildings, the Associated Press reported.
One of the ordinances went into effect immediately so that it would cover the election. The other ordinance will go into effect on Nov. 15, 30 days after it was approved.
Donna Gaukler, director of the Missoula Parks and Recreation department, said the amendments should clarify park rules that have been around for 30 years, the Missoulian reported.
“Weapons are not permitted in parks and haven’t been for 30 years, so this is not a unique change,” Gaukler said. “But the difference is to change it from a rule to an ordinance.”
She said it was harder to enforce a park rule than a city ordinance. Once the rules have been made into laws, police can cite a person for carrying a weapon in a park.
Certain parklands were exempted from the new laws, and any conservation lands not under the city’s jurisdiction were excluded.
Firearms were prohibited at the 52 parks that have playgrounds, aquatics features, park shelters, sports or special event facilities, and those that host outdoor youth camps or classrooms, or serve primarily as a safe route to schools, the Missoulian reported.
Under the new ordinance, permits must be obtained for gun shows, veteran’s 21-gun salutes, or other such special events held in public parks.
City Council Member Jesse Ramos said he wanted an amendment that will exempt people with concealed-carry weapons permits because they have had background checks done and have attended classes.
Ramos said he’d also like to remove parks from the prohibited places list because homeless people in parks use drugs and can threaten people.
He called guns would be a “great equalizer,” according to the Missoulian.