Montana’s Attorney General Tim Fox has stated that Missoula’s recent gun background check ordinance violates Montana state law.
“Missoula’s ordinance is outside of its authority,” Fox said.
Fox issued an opinion saying state law does not allow cities to exercise any power that affects the right to bear arms.
The ordinance in question was passed in September. It requires private sellers to complete a background check before selling a gun. That means if you’re a gun owner and want to sell your firearm to a friend or colleague, you’re required to run a background check on the buyer.
Missoula City Council member Bryan von Lossberg sponsored the legislation.
He stated that he is not surprised by the Attorney General’s decision but does not see a “clear path of appeal.” Von Lossberg says he believes the ordinance is effective and necessary but expected the ruling as the Attorney General had made his position “clear” long before today’s ruling was issued.
Von Lossberg also stated that the council was advised the ordinance was within the law by the city attorney, Jim Nugent.
“He absolutely was consulted and issued an opinion making it clear the city was absolutely in its rights to pass this,” explained Von Lossberg.
The city council could still appeal the Attorney General’s opinion and keep the ordinance, however.
The attorney general didn’t directly comment on what the city of Missoula needs to do with the ordinance but did say common sense would be to stop enforcing the ordinance.
Right now, Von Lossberg says there’s no immediate plan to appeal the Attorney General’s opinion.