An ordinance under consideration by the Missoula City Council is taking heavy fire from gun rights advocates.
Sponsored by Council Members Bryan von Lossberg, Marilyn Marler and Emily Bently, the draft ordinance aims to close a loophole that allows private transactions and gun transfers to happen without a background check. Licensed firearms dealers are required to run a check on gun buyers, but there is no federal or state law that requires the same check for private parties.
A legal opinion written by Missoula City Attorney Jim Nugent found the ordinance to be in line with state and federal law, but a response by attorneys for the Montana Shooting Sports Association challenges that assertion, arguing Montana code protects those who sell firearms from being regulated.
Hayes Otoupalik, chairman of the annual Missoula Gun and Antique Show, takes it a step further, arguing the ordinance would only hurt law-abiding citizens, especially those who sell and collect antique firearms.
“All the people that legally go about this are just going to face a financial punishment to transact or transfer a weapon,” Otopouluk said. “One guy’s going to have to transfer to a dealer, and then the person that’s buying the gun is going to get charged money by that dealer to do the paperwork back to him.”
He said people wanting to avoid a background check could just leave city limits to purchase a gun.
That’s why Heidi Kendall, a volunteer for the local chapter of Moms Demand Action, called the ordinance a first step.
“This is not going to stop the problem, absolutely not, but it will help. It will definitely make a difference,” Kendall said. “If you go to a Walmart or Bob Ward’s, and you buy a gun, you do a background check. There is no reason why gun shows can’t also do background checks.”