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News & Editorials

Respectfully Disagreeing with GOA
This Montana legislation looks good to us. Support it.

from Angel Shamaya

(For a rebuttal to this message, click here.)

One of the surest ways to test a friendship is to strongly disagree on an important issue about which you both care deeply. Gun Owners of America has been good to Larry Pratt invited me onto his Live Fire radio program (archived here.) He supported us with advertising when we launched our website, and we've left the ad up indefinitely. He's allowed us to archive his articles and print whatever they send out that will help the cause. And he's also had enough strength in both his organization and their positions that we've had an example to follow -- and promote.

I also happen to like Larry, personally. He's been running the gauntlet for our rights for 25 years, and his dedication deserves nothing less than respect and admiration. He cares deeply about freedom. Deeply.

But GOA just crossed one of our other allies in a way that doesn't make sense, their having done so might have cost gunowners some good legislation, and I'm responding to their having done so as respectfully and forthrightly as I possibly can.

Fortunately, I don't think Larry Pratt even knows this situation exists; he's out of town on vacation. But I do know that someone at GOA goofed up, and I hope they will print a retraction, and an apology.

Following is GOA's report sent out to their Montana list, called "Socialist Shooting Ranges." [Montana legislators say they're getting email from as far away as Hawaii, so it may be that GOA sent this out more broadly than just Montana.] The indented text marked with "AS:" is my response.

Socialist Shooting Ranges

Gun Owners of America

8001 Forbes Place, Suite 102, Springfield, Virginia 22151
703-321-8585 / FAX: 703-321-8408

January 17, 2001

Dear Montana Gun Owner,

Your action is needed immediately.

As early as today, a committee in the Montana House will consider House Bill 258, which we call "Socialist Shooting Ranges."

AS: Having read the text of HB258 twice, I do not see anything "socialist" about it. In fact, it looks more like "Libertarian/Free Market Shooting Ranges," to me. More on why to follow...

HB 258, crafted by a well-intentioned but misguided group of citizens, gives state money (read: taxpayer funds) to shooting ranges. Though all of us want to make certain shooting ranges stay open, this is not the solution. Any new expenditure of state funds will only serve to increase the size of government, something most gun owners oppose.

AS: The phrase "misguided group of citizens" is what gave me cause to investigate this situation myself. Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association is the one who crafted this bill, along with his Liberty Minded allies. Gary Marbut has "crafted" 30 pieces of pro gun legislation, seen them through to completion into law, and done so -- like many who work for the cause -- in lieu of his own personal finances, lifestyle, personal time, etc. More on Mr. Marbut and MSSA down below, please read it.

NOTE: Montana has one of the best Shooting Range Protection Acts in the nation -- and the "misguided citizens" to whom GOA is referring are the same citizens who WROTE that bill and lobbied it into LAW that other states have copied. Gary Marbut would not put his 20 year lobbying experience to use to cut his own throat. (I wish we could clone him in mass quantities and distribute the clones to every state in America.)

AS: GOA says the bill "gives state money (read: taxpayer funds) to shooting ranges." This is not so, not in the spirit in which is it written. No taxpayer monies are used for this program -- unless you count any money as "taxpayer money." It's all hunter license fee dollars (nobody is required to buy a hunting license, so it's not a tax, it's a user fee -- the best way to manage, well, anything. If only our entire society was run on user fees...).

AS: HB 258 shifts the funding source for the shooting range development program to a silent auction of a few moose, sheep and goat permits -- a willing buyer and willing seller. That's not a "Socialist Shooting Range,"; it's a Libertarian/Free Market Shooting Range. (It's exactly 50 permits that will be auctioned, and those animals are going to die this year anyway... so why not let it fund shooting ranges?) The stipulations in the current protection of (and funding for) shooting ranges are NOT about government control; they are about gun owner support. Using some of the monies raised by the sale of big game permits for shooting ranges is a perfect way to let hunters' monies help other hunters and shooters. And I say any smart hunter or shooter would, after investigation, fully support HB258.

More importantly, once Montana ranges start taking government money, no matter if it is from direct taxes or so-called "fees", they must take government strings. Adding additional strings to a right already under direct assault cannot help our plight; it can only make it worse.

AS: Not government money; citizen money, given by choice (free will, the fuel for a healthy free market).

AS: "Must take government strings?" I cannot see where GOA's reporter arrives at that conclusion -- in relation to this bill? I don't get it, and I read every word of the bill. I also read the shooting range development LAW in Montana. HB 258 is helping make sure the sun doesn't set on shooter-friendly law -- to HELP gun owners.

AS: Plight in Montana? Where? When? (Last session of their legislature, MSSA took seven pro-gun bills to the capitol, and got six of those passed. If Montana is plighted, I wish all 50 states were so plighted. Okay, 49. Vermont has some better provisions.)

AS: What are the strings in the bill? Gary Marbut has been a lobbyist in Montana for two decades; I don't think he'd be introducing "strings" against his own people -- against himself. Huh? (He wrote the Shooting Range Protection Act and lobbied it into law. If there were a pitfall in HB258, Gary Marbut would be all over it like white on rice.)

AS: Unless you're talking about the "string" that requires range managers/owners to provide some measure of public access to funded ranges? But that isn't a "string"; it's an incentive to help more people have a place to shoot!

What could Socialist Shooting Ranges lead to?

AS: I don't know, but the chances of these things below happening in Montana on Gary Marbut's watch are about as likely as Dianne Feinstein becoming the President of the NRA by unanimous vote of the entire board and every single member.

1. Government requirements to turn in the list of shooters to obtain the grant money. This would create a "dangerous persons" list, maintained by law enforcement.

AS: Montana's shooting range development code -- already on the books -- doesn't mention GOA's projection, nor does HB 258. And the protection of shooting ranges in Montana is so clear that the above is much less than even a remote possibility in Montana. Furthermore, if there was a remote possibility that the legislature was going to bastardize such requirements into the bill before passage, Gary Marbut's friends in the Legislature would kill the bill in a heartbeat, rather than allow a bad bill to pass.

2. Broad new regulations on the operation and status of shooting ranges, giving government the foothold to shut them down.

AS: This requirement is not in the terms of the shooting range development act that is already on the books in Montana. GOA's reporter should read it; it's quite inspiring. Right now, I don't think we could even get such a shooting range protection -- written by HB258's author -- into law in pro gun Arizona.

3. New lockers at the range, giving government the excuse to require you to store your weapons at a shooting range. If you think this is far-fetched, consider Great Britain and Canada, where firearms are stored only in government authorized lockers -- and not in the home.

AS: This requirement is not in the terms of the shooting range development act that is already LAW in MT. Reaching all the way to Britain to make a case against this bill in Montana -- with an projected outcome that isn't introduced anywhere in this or any other Montana bill and never has been is... well I don't know what to call it. Unusual, to be kind. (Bizarre is more like it.)

4. The more we encourage government to get involved in shooting ranges, the more influence they will exert over our gun rights.

AS: GOA's reporter obviously has not read the shooting range development code (read: LAW) in Montana. All states should model such legislation, as soon as possible. Its author wrote HB258 -- for a reason, many reasons, all valid.

What you can do:

Contact the State Representatives on the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee and urge them to defeat HB 258, the Socialist Shooting Range bill. If you are a constituent of one of the committee members, be certain to mention that.

AS: I can't believe one of your guys sent that out, Larry. Who wrote that paragraph? I would like to speak with them personally to find out what is going on here. HB258 is a good piece of legislation that helps Montana gunowners in numerous ways, and you guys are trying to kill it. Why?

District Map:

Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee members:

AS: We thought to omit the phone numbers and email addresses GOA sent out as many of them are home numbers and home email addresses of legislators who are camped out at the capitol during the 90-day session. But some of the emails GOA encouraged people to send made it through, so feel free to use the same means of communication -- in support of this bill.

Name            	Pty 	Dis 	Phone        E-mail

Bales (R  	01  	784-2487 
Balyeat          	R  	32  	586-1838 
Barrett          	R  	34  	681-3177  
Clark            	D  	72  	827-4440 
Devlin           	R  	03  	486-5533 
Facey            	D  	67  	542-4070  
Fuchs          	R  	15  	252-8364 
Fritz            	D  	69  	549-6712  
Gallus           	D  	35  	782-2042 
Golie            	D  	44  	454-6914 
Gutsche          	D  	66  	543-3747 
Jent             	D  	29  	586-1373  
Laszloffy        	R  	22  	628-4705 
Rice             	R  	33  	685-3468 
Ripley           	R  	50  	562-3502 
Rome             	R  	56  	846-2461 
Shockley        	R  	61  	642-6647  
Steinbeisser     	R 	100  	489-0547 
Thomas           	R  	93  	423-5582 
Tramelli         	D  	46  	268-6085
Gary Marbut/Montana Shooting Sports Association's Successes

I offer a few parting comments below, but first I want you to know about the "misguided citizen" who drafted this bill:

P.O. Box 4924
Missoula, MT 59806


Montana Shooting Range Protection Act. 76-9-101 through 105, M.C.A. The first shooting range protection law in the U.S., written and lobbied successfully through the Montana Legislature by MSSA, the SRPA prevents the arbitrary involuntary closure of shooting range because of noise complaints, allegations of lead or copper pollution, zoning, master plans, population encroachment and other reasons. Ranges may only be closed because of proven safety defects, and then range operators must be given notice and opportunity to refute safety allegations, and must be given opportunity to cure provable safety defects.

Game Lawfully Taken Becomes the Personal Property of the Hunter. 87-2-509, M.C.A. From the common law in old England, it has always been the presumption that all game belongs to the state (or to the king). The status remained the same, even if the meat was in the hunter's freezer. Not only did this expose some hunters to uncertain legal issues, it muddied the question of whether hunters could donate game meat to food banks or needy individuals. MSSA wrote and got passed a law that clarifies that game, once lawfully taken and tagged, becomes the personal property of the hunter.

Gun owner not liable for criminal acts committed with a stolen firearm. A man was visiting a sick parent in a Billings hospital. Some problem teenagers got into his pickup and stole everything they could rip off, including his camera, radio, stereo, cigarettes, other goods, and a handgun. Later, one of the kids was fooling with the gun and shot and killed another of the thieves. The dead youth's parents sued the shooter and gun owner alleging that the gun owner was negligently responsible for the death for not adequately securing his firearm. The district court agreed, as did the Montana Supreme Court. The 1997 Legislature passed an MSSA-supported law (HB 352) clarifying that a gun owner is not responsible for the misuse of a stolen firearm.

Mandatory Issue Concealed Weapon Permits. 45-8-315 through 330. It used to be that issuance of CWPs was solely at the unregulated discretion of district court judges. In over half of the counties in Montana, permits were not available, at all. In the other half, permits were only practically available to those with personal connections to the sheriff or judge (with the exception of Silverbow County, in which any law-abiding citizen could get a permit). In 1991, MSSA successfully pressed a broad reform that required sheriffs to issue permits to any law abiding resident within 60 days of application. Subsequent amendments have allowed use of permits to avoid the five-day Brady Law wait for handgun purchase, and have authorized the Governor to negotiate CWP reciprocity with other states. The new law works fine, and there are thousands of permits issued all across Montana. The early fears by some law enforcement administrators that the new law would encourage an increase of crimes of violence with firearms have proven to be totally unfounded.

Local governments preemption. 45-8-351, M.C.A. There is a preemption law in Montana that prevents local governments from passing gun control ordinances, except for regulating the discharge of firearms inside city limits, and regulating the carrying of firearms into public parks and public buildings. This law was enacted in 1985 with the assistance of people who later founded MSSA.

Second Conviction of Hunter Harassment is a Felony. 87-3-142, M.C.A. It used to be the law that conviction of hunter harassment was a misdemeanor crime - punishable by little more than a slap on the wrist. The professional anti-hunting, hunt disrupters had little qualm about committing their harassment protests in Montana, although they would shun states where the penalties were steeper. MSSA pressed through the law that makes second conviction a felony, with hard time in the state prison. Since passage of this law, Montana has had no second hunter harassment incidents by the professional protesters.

Firearm Safety Instructors Exempt from Liability. 27-1-721, M.C.A. It has become more and more difficult to recruit gun safety instructors because of possible exposure of instructors' personal assets to lawsuits over gun accidents by an instructor's student. This law, written and pushed successfully by MSSA, exempts firearm safety instructors from acts or omissions of students as long as the instructor did not use gross negligence in training the student.

Right to Keep and Bear Arms Week. 1-1-224, M.C.A. Written and pushed by MSSA, this law establishes the first week of March as an official time for Montanans to celebrate their cherished right to keep and bear arms.

Hunting Heritage Week. 1-1-226, M.C.A. Another MSSA bill - The third week of September is set aside, by law, to celebrate Montana's heritage and culture of hunting game animals.

Gun safety in schools. 1991 Senate Joint Resolution 15. Encourages gun safety training in the elementary schools of Montana. 1997 House Bill 314 directs schools to adopt a gun safety program for kids.

Shooting sports in schools. Senate Joint Resolution 16. Encourages the adoption of rimfire competition as an intramural and interscholastic sport in the high schools of Montana. SJ16 notes that the shooting sports are gender neutral, and a sport that is available to some students with disabilities, as opposed to some other sports that are available only to the few most athletically gifted in the school. Also, in shooting sports, small, rural schools can compete on an equal footing with larger, urban schools.

Handgun hunting districts - allow big game hunting with handguns in special districts restricted to shotguns and muzzleloaders. 87-1-304, M.C.A. The Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission had restricted certain hunting districts to use only of shotguns or muzzleloading rifles, usually riverbottom districts in semi-populated areas. This limitation was for safety because of projectile reach. MSSA obtained a change in the law to also allow use of handguns in these districts.

Sporting goods stores may exceed fire codes for storage of smokeless powder and primers. 50-61-120, M.C.A. The Uniform Fire Code is produced by the Western Fire Chiefs conference and then adopted for code enforcement by cities, towns and the state. The UFC used to specify that stores could have no more than 20 pounds of smokeless powder and no more than 1,000 primers on premises at any time. These limits did not allow stores to stock sufficient components to service the reloading market. MSSA wrote and lobbied through a law that supersedes the UFC and allows stores to stock up to 400 pounds of smokeless powder and up to 125,000 small arms primers.

Easements to secure a safety zone around a shooting range. 70-17-101, M.C.A. Owners and operators of a shooting range need to secure a safety zone of property adjacent to the range, but often do not have the financial resources to buy the necessary land. This law, generated and pushed by MSSA, allows range operators to use easements to secure safety zones around ranges.

Non-resident minor children of Montana residents may hunt as residents. 87-2-102, M.C.A. Some children of split homes have a parent who resides in Montana. Such parents have asked why their kids can't come to Montana and hunt with them using resident licenses. MSSA initiated and pressed a law that clarified that the non-resident minor children of Montana residents can hunt in Montana as residents.

Over-zealous federal officers . Many people are concerned about the actions of over-zealous federal officers. We believe that the county sheriff should be able to protect us from federal police who exceed their authority. MSSA obtained passage of a resolution a) asking all federal officers to notify the county sheriff prior to any arrest, search or seizure in the sheriff's county, b) requiring the Montana Department of Justice to maintain a log of federal operations in Montana and note which ones happened with the advance notice to the sheriff, and c) requiring the Montana Secretary of State to send copies of the resolution to a long list of federal agencies.

Montana exempted from the federal "gun-free school zones" A little-known federal law makes it a federal crime to travel within 1,000 feet of a school grounds if you have a firearm in your vehicle that is not BOTH unloaded and locked away. Because Montana schools are on the main streets, this stupid federal law makes criminals of a majority of Montana citizens over the course of the year. MSSA successfully pushed state legislation, 45-8-360, M.C.A., that exempts from this federal law anyone in Montana who is protected by Montana's constitutional right to keep and bear arms (all non-criminal adults).

Funding shooting range development. MSSA successfully pressed a bill (HB 389, 1999) to establish a program for matching grants for shooting range establishment and improvement using money from hunting license fees and administered by the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Preventing cities from suing gunmakers. In 1999, MSSA pushed a bill that now prevents Montana cities from filing harassment lawsuits against gunmakers.

Machine guns and silencers - killing old laws. As a holdover from the Prohibition era, Montana had laws making it illegal to possess full auto firearms using pistol-caliber ammo, or silencers, both in conflict with current federal law. MSSA succeeded with a bill (SB427, 1999) to wipe these archaic laws off the books.

Repeal the Brady Law. MSSA successfully lobbied through the Legislature a Joint Resolution of the House and Senate calling upon Congress to repeal the unwanted and unneeded federal Brady Law.

CWP "prohibited places". Because of some under-the-table dealmaking in 1991, the Montana law about concealed weapons permits has had provisions preventing the exercise of CWPs in "prohibited places"; bars, banks and public buildings. MSSA successfully advanced two bills in 1999 to roll back the "prohibited places" restrictions.

CWP reciprocity. For years, we have attempted to generate CWP reciprocity with other states. In 1995, MSSA pushed through a bill authorizing the governor to negotiate reciprocity with other states. No reciprocity resulted from that bill. In 1999, MSSA switched directions and pushed a bill (HB459) recognizing the permits of any states which do a criminal background check before issuing a CWP, and where the permittee has the permit and an official ID (e.g. drivers license) in possession. Many states have "we'll recognize yours if you recognize ours"-type laws. Montana will gain immediate reciprocity with these states. Montana now recognizes the permits from 34 other states - see the MT DOJ list at:

Defective firearm liability. 27-1-720. Liability -- defect in design of firearms or ammunition. (1) In a products liability action, no firearm or ammunition may be considered defective in design on the basis that the benefits of the product do not outweigh the risk of injury posed by its potential to cause serious injury, damage, or death when discharged. (2) For purposes of this section: (a) the potential of a firearm or ammunition to cause serious injury, damage, or death when discharged does not make the product defective in design; and (b) injuries or damages resulting from the discharge of a firearm or ammunition are not proximately caused by its potential to cause serious injury, damage, or death but are proximately caused by the actual discharge of the product. (3) The provisions of this section do not affect a products liability cause of action based upon the improper selection of design alternatives.

Killing the bad stuff. MSSA has opposed and killed many pieces of anti-gun and anti-hunting legislation (such as a bill to give the county commissioners of all counties the authority to ban the discharge of firearms in any or all parts of counties, and many others).

Other activities - affiliations. MSSA is the primary organization providing gun safety materials to Montana schools. MSSA does an annual, pre-hunting season, multi-media campaign encouraging hunters to police their own ranks for hunter ethics. MSSA conducts an annual campaign encouraging hunters to donate excess game meat to food banks and the needy. MSSA is the primary organization in Montana asserting the rights and of gun owners and hunters. MSSA is affiliated with the National Rifle Association, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and the Second Amendment Foundation.

Join MSSA The Montana Shooting Sports Association is actively fighting for and asserting your right to keep and bear arms. We need you to become a member. Send $20 for an individual annual membership to MSSA at P.O. Box 4924, Missoula, Montana 59806 . An MSSA membership application is on the MSSA Website at:

Parting Comments

I consider Gary Marbut to be The Man when it comes to Montana gun laws, legislation, politics, hunting, shooting sports, or anything else where the word "gun" is used in the same sentence as the word "Montana" -- because he is. I've been meaning to urge everyone on our Montana list to join MSSA but have just been "too busy" to take that simple step, so here is my urging you to do so:


After you do (or even if you don't), sign up for MSSA's free email reports regarding legislative activity in Montana. To get on the MSSA email list, people only need to send an email to and ask to be placed on the list. Gary Marbut gets out two to five items per day -- and gunowners in Montana should be reading this stuff and responding to the Action Steps quickly.

I have looked over this legislation closely, read the Montana laws protecting Montana gunowners and shooting ranges (written by Gary Marbut, legislated into law by Gary Marbut, modeled by any state who has sense), and I fully support HB258 -- because it helps Montana shooters and hunters in a free market way. I encourage all gunowners in Montana to support it immediately and completely. But do you own homework, please; don't take my word for it. Read the bill yourself. It won't take you all of four minutes to do so. When you're done, you might look at what MSSA is doing to stop the government from requiring social (in)security numbers for hunting licenses by going here: MSSA also has a zip file you can download from their website containing all gun laws in Montana, free of charge, right here: You should also be aware of the pro children gun safety program Gary Marbut wrote: It has been used to properly educate 3,000+ Montana kids, and we find it more agreeable than the NRA's Eddie Eagle program.

I reiterate my appreciation of and respect for the good work GOA does out in D.C., but when it comes to gun issues in Montana, when given a choice between trusting their opinions as issued from D.C. over trusting Gary Marbut's word, I'll stick with the local boy who's got 20 years experience in the Montana legislature and who has gotten more pro gun legislation in Montana turned into law than GOA, the NRA and all other gun rights groups combined.

If I was GOA's reporter, I would be calling Gary Marbut to apologize for misrepresenting Reality. I'd also make sure to contact Gary Marbut before shooting myself in the foot like this again in Montana.

We love, respect and appreciate the people, commitments from and integrity of:

Montana Shooting Sports Association -- JOIN TODAY !!

(For a rebuttal to this message, click here.)

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