The Missoula City council voted 8-4 to require background checks for all private gun sales on Monday.
The Missoula Police Department says they plan to enforce the ordinance on a “complaint basis,” but specifics will not be outlined until the ordinance goes into effect at the beginning of November.
“Our strategy will be complaint driven, meaning we will respond to complaints in violation of the city ordinance as they come in,” said Missoula police public information officer Travis Welsh. “It’s not something that we are going to actively seek out. I’m sure that there will be discussions at the staff level, that at some point will come down the chain of command. Officers on the street will know in 30 days’ time, very clearly, how we’re going to approach this. If we do witness or observe a violation, then we would investigate that like we would with any other.”
Missoula City Council member Bryan von Lossberg, who sponsored the legislation, said the council wrote the policies, but enforcement was up to the police department.
“It’s obviously challenging. Enforcement will change over time, as we learn and adapt. I think it’s no different than something like the cellphone ordinance,” von Lossberg said.
The ordinance that limits drivers’ cellphone usage was passed a few years ago, though the city council has continued to tighten restrictions and update the original ordinance over time.
Greg Admunsen is the traffic sergeant for the Missoula Police Department. He says the updates have been a good thing because there are fewer ways for drivers to get out of tickets.
City lawmakers say that’s exactly the mentality they hope to use for the gun ordinance. “We’re really trying to look over time at that data to get a sense of how it works, how it doesn’t work, how enforcement be improved,” von Lossberg added.
The ordinance says the first offense is a $500 fine. Multiple offenses could include additional fines and possible jail time, up to six months.