The Montana House of Representatives voted 58-42 Monday in favor of a bill that would, among other things, expand self-defense protections and allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit in Montana’s cities.
House Bill 228, sponsored by Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel, would also allow people to brandish a gun to stave off an attack, make it legal for a private person to use “reasonable force” to arrest another person and it would shift the burden of proof in self-defense cases to the state.
The bill will now go on to third reading in the House and if it passes there, it will move on to the Senate.
Several Democrats spoke up against the bill, saying it would put undue burden on law enforcement officials in the state.
“If we do this, we are putting our best and our brightest in the way of harm,” Rep. Margaret MacDonald, D-Billings said.
“This bill is wrong, we don’t need it and we ought not inflict this bill on our entire law enforcement community, which is saying ‘no,’” said Rep. Brady Wiseman, R-Bozeman, who also reminded the House that a similar bill in the 2007 session, was so controversial it drew death threats to lawmakers.
Two amendments were introduced on the floor Tuesday, one by Kendall Van Dyk, which would have stricken the entire section on concealed weapons. But, that amendment failed.
An amendment from Kerns did pass, however. That amendment inserted language in the section of the bill that covered brandishing to protect “the safety of our police officers,” he said. Under the new section, it would continue to be illegal to show a gun in defense if the person were “negligently or purposefully threatening a peace officer with a firearm; displaying a firearm during the commission of a forcible felony; or displaying a firearm as part of a pattern of criminal street gang activity as defined in 45-8-405”
In advocating for his bill, Kerns said a main point of the bill a person’s right to defend him or herself—and that’s a right that should not be confined to the home.
“The right to self-defense is personal, it travels with you wherever you may be,” he said.
As originally drafted, the bill would have allowed guns in the workplace, but that section was removed before the bill hit the House floor.
The bill does, however, make sure the rights of renters and homeowners alike are protected—something that Deb Kottel, D-Great Falls, cited as one of the reasons that she was one of the Democrats to cross the aisle and support the bill.