Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signs bill nullifying federal gun restrictions

HELENA, Montana — Gov. Greg Gianforte on Friday signed a bill that prohibits state and local law enforcement in Montana from enforcing federal bans on firearms, ammunition and magazines.

Supporters of the law have said it would protect the Second Amendment from stiffer gun control laws that could come from federal legislation or executive orders by President Joe Biden in the wake of several mass shootings that took place this year, including a recent shooting that killed eight people in Indianapolis.

Opponents of the bill have said it would make it difficult for local law enforcement to collaborate with federal authorities on issues beyond gun access when such collaboration is essential to protect public safety, including in cases of domestic violence and drug offenses.

Related: Biden looks to stem ‘ghost guns,’ unveils other steps to curb gun violence ‘epidemic’

Montana law would prohibit law enforcement officials and other state employees from enforcing, implementing or spending state funds to uphold federal bans on particular kinds of firearms, ammunition and magazines.

Biden announced this month several executive actions to address gun violence, including a move to crack down on “ghost guns,” homemade firearms that lack serial numbers used to trace them and are often purchased without a background check. The U.S. Justice Department is expected to release new rules on ghost guns in coming weeks.

The president has also called for a ban on assault weapons, but such legislation will likely face an uphill climb.

Montana is one of at least a dozen states that has sought to nullify new gun restrictions this year. The state’s Republican-controlled Legislature has attempted to pass similar measures into law for almost a decade. Such bills were vetoed by former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

In Arkansas, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed a similar measure Friday, saying it would jeopardize law enforcement and the public. A similar measure was signed into law earlier this month in Arizona.

Gianforte, a Republican, said in announcing his decision to sign the bill that it would protect Second Amendment rights in the state. Earlier this year he signed into law a bill that relaxes gun restrictions in Montana, allowing concealed firearms to be carried in most places without a permit and expanding the list of places where guns can be carried to include university campuses and the state Capitol.

Samuels is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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