MISSOULA, Mont. – The city of Missoula today sued the Attorney General of Montana as part of its efforts to enforce a public safety ordinance requiring background checks on unlicensed gun sales, asking a Montana state court to overrule a determination by Attorney General Timothy C. Fox that the ordinance is preempted by state law. Everytown for Gun Safety’s Litigation Team is co-counsel with the Missoula firm of Boone Karlberg P.C. and the Missoula City Attorney, representing the city in the lawsuit, which is available here.
STATEMENT FROM PAMELA OWEN, MISSOULA RESIDENT AND A VOLUNTEER WITH THE MONTANA CHAPTER OF MOMS DEMAND ACTION FOR GUN SENSE IN AMERICA:
“As our city council considered this ordinance, Moms Demand Action volunteers, gun violence survivors and gun owners came together to demonstrate the widespread community support. I’m grateful our elected leaders heard our voices, and I’m grateful they’re continuing to work to make sure this common-sense public safety measure takes effect.
Missoula’s leaders know we don’t have to choose between supporting the rights of law abiding gun owners and closing dangerous gaps in our gun laws, and they have our strong support as they work to prevent gun violence in our great city.”
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE LAWSUIT:
In 2016, the Missoula City Council passed a city ordinance that requires criminal background checks on all gun sales (with certain limited exceptions). Although federal law requires licensed gun dealers to conduct criminal background checks on gun sales, a loophole exists that allows unlicensed sales, including sales online and at gun shows, to take place without background checks. Montana is not one of the states that have closed this loophole, and Missoula’s ordinance closed the loophole within city limits.
In the two years leading up to the passage, volunteers with the Montana Chapter of Moms Demand Action collected signatures, showed up en masse at the city council committee meetings and hearings and testified in support of the proposed ordinance. Moms Demand Action is part of Everytown for Gun Safety.
As detailed in the complaint, the office of Montana Attorney General Timothy C. Fox issued a legal opinion that the city’s ordinance is preempted by state law. The Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives had requested the opinion from the Attorney General following its passage by the Missoula City Council.
Missoula is challenging Attorney General Fox’s determination and asking the court to issue a declaration that the city can enforce its ordinance. The city’s ordinance “was properly enacted and within the authority of the City of Missoula under Montana law,” the complaint states.