Letters to the Editor • Gun Rights

Some Points about the new Montana Gun Law

I am a class 2 firearms manufacturer (machine guns, suppressors, etc) in Montana. When this legislation was in draft form, a friend of mine in the legislature asked me to review and comment on it. None of my suggestions were incorporated in the final bill, which could leave the law open to various interpretations by the Federal government.

The most obvious "error" was in Section 5, which as written, would give Federal authority a loophole for controlling all firearms because of the way it is phrased. For example para (4) exempts from the State law any firearm capable of discharging multiple projectiles rather than multiple cartridges with a single pull of the trigger. The use of the term projectile is unfortunate because it is not synonymous with cartridge. A cartridge is a complete round of ammunition. A projectile is only the part being expelled out the muzzle. As such, the Feds could argue all firearms can be banned or regulated by them under MT law because all of them are capable of discharging multiple projectiles with a single activation of the firing mechanism. All shotguns, pistols and rifles are capable of firing shot cartridges and/or duplex rounds (multiple projectiles stacked on top of each other in a single case). It appears the attempt of this paragraph was to exempt machine guns from the list of firearms protected in intrastate trade. This too is a dangerous precedent for it allows the camel’s nose under the tent.

I realize many legislators may be unaware of the nature of the Federal laws surrounding machine guns and they probably retain the popular view of them as suitable only for the gangsters, lawmen, and soldiers. In so doing, they ignore the true history of these firearms, which dates back to the 1880s when Hiram Maxim perfected the first fully automatic machine gun. They remained unregulated by the Federal government until 1934 when the National Firearms Act of 1934 was enacted. It required all machine guns to be registered and a $200 Federal Transfer Tax was placed on each transfer,! a might y sum in 1934 that became a de facto ban on ownership by any but the wealthy. The Gun Control Act of 1968 (copied directly from a 1938 Nazi law) banned the importation of machine guns for private ownership, and allowed a short grace period for the registration of any war souvenirs that had not been “papered” prior to then. After this grace period ended, no more “closet or attic” guns have ever been allowed to be registered, but new guns still could be manufactured. The Federal Gun Owners Protection Act of 1986 supposedly banned future manufacture of machine guns for private sale. It actually states that machine guns must be manufactured under the authority of the United States. This vague phrase has been interpreted by the Federal Courts as banning private sales of machine guns registered after 19 May 1986. All machine guns registered prior to this date remain legal and transferable to private individuals and corporations (State laws permitting).

By exempting machine guns, explosives, and crew served arms from this bill, we are ignoring the very types of firearm the Feds will want to regulate and confiscate first. By omitting these arms, the State is failing to reserve for itself the option to build, regulate, and acquire these guns for its own use, or to monitor their use among the citizenry. For these reasons I recommended this paragraph be deleted, or else amended to read in effect, “Section 5. Exceptions. (Section 4) does not apply to the following firearms, when not made under the authority of the State of Montana :”

Lastly, a nitpicking point of no real consequence is Section 6, which require "Made In Montana" to be engraved on any firearm made for intrastate sale. Federal law already requires the City and State of manufacture to be engraved on the receiver, along with the serial number and name of the manufacturer. Adding the words “Made in” is unnecessary. For example, my suppressors are all marked “Paladin Armory, Elliston, MT”. I suggested changing the wording “must have the name of the manufacturer, city, and state (MT or Montana).” This would have kept it in line with existing law and not create additional work.

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Brock Lorber
Entered on:
I woke up this morning thinking about the unintended consequences of this legislation and others like it. This LTE hits on a big one, but there will be others.

It will be interesting to see the behavioral changes that result.