The Futility of a Missoula Municipal Ordinance Requiring Background Checks at Gun Shows

by William Skink

I didn’t grow up around guns. I have a few memories of my grandpa letting my brother and I fire a few rounds, but that’s about it.

My grandpa served in the military, so he was obviously quite familiar with firearms. My dad, on the other hand, had no interest. When I bought my first gun last year, he got really upset with me. I’m still not 100% sure why, but it’s not a subject I bring up. Out of respect.

I solicited feedback before purchasing my first gun, which ended up being a Ruger Mark III. The practical comments were helpful in directing me toward a sensible first-firearm purchase. The political comments were less than helpful, but they do illustrate the fault lines in our discourse surrounding access to firearms.

I know the data shows America has gone ballistic with gun violence, that can’t be dismissed. There is common sense approaches to limiting access to guns for unstable people, like background checks, that will never see the light of day at the Federal level, so it would make sense that localities will try to act where Congress has failed.

Missoula’s City Council recently took on closing the gun show loop-hole within city limits. My reaction mirrors Dan Brooks’ in this week’s Indy.

Basically what Brooks is doing is a cost/benefit analysis: is the benefit of passing a municipal ordinance (just go to Hamilton, crazy felons) to close this loophole, locally, worth the political cost of poking the 2nd amendment bear?

Brooks offers a practical assessment of the limitations of what Missoula’s City Council is trying to accomplish when it comes to limiting access to firearms for the mentally unstable and criminally savvy demographics:

The premise of this proposed ordinance is that such people have already proved willing to inconvenience themselves to buy guns by waiting for gun shows instead of visiting a licensed shop. Requiring background checks at gun shows within city limits might keep some of these people from buying guns, but all it guarantees is that they won’t buy guns in Missoula.

The next Hamilton Gun Show is scheduled for Dec. 4-6 at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds, approximately one hour’s drive from City Hall. That’s farther than 10 miles, and it will keep guns away from mentally ill felons who ride the bus. Otherwise, it will only require that people who want to buy firearms pass a criminal background check or know someone who has a car.

Dan Brooks is right, Missoula’s City Council is not advocating for a smart enough policy worth inciting the political backlash that will ensue. If the loophole persists in Hamilton, what’s the point of expending political capital to force background checks at gun shows within Missoula’s city limits?

Politically, I don’t think gun control is a winning issue for Democrats, especially in a state like Montana. Even a columnist like Dan Brooks can anticipate the cost of a backlash against the misguided, though well-intentioned, actions of Missoula’s City Council.

Trying to address this issue at the Municipal level is a waste of time. Missoula has bigger problems than gun show loopholes to deal with.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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18 Responses to The Futility of a Missoula Municipal Ordinance Requiring Background Checks at Gun Shows

  1. Greg Strandberg says:

    Reason, logic, accountability and common sense – these are all things the Missoula City Council turned their back on long ago.

  2. 01stevekelly says:

    I think the Municipal level is quite appropriate. When elected officials are unable to administer the will of the majority it always has the option of letting the people decide for themselves. Nothing wrong with a referendum placed on the ballot for public review and an up or down vote. Always good to do what one can given circumstances at the time. Otherwise, nothing ever happens if some special interest group puts up the slightest stink, or the threat of a stink. Democracy is not supposed to be pretty. It is what it is if allowed to function regardless of the odds.

  3. Big Swede says:

    You may not like guns.
    That is your right.

    You may not believe in God.
    That is your choice.

    But if someone breaks into your home, the first two things you’re going to do are…

    1. Call someone with a gun.
    2. Pray they get there on time.

    • And the cops better pray the frightened homeowner doesn’t shoot them or anyone else in the process.

      • Big Swede says:

        And how often does that happen Mark? You’re a numbers guy, do the math. The number of incidents where a home owner shot a cop coming to assist them versus the number of home invasions where the occupants were present.

        • It was rhetorical. (But first, you were quoting someone without attribution, rude)

          Second, you were making a generalization that is unsustainable, that the average person has the wits to match the skills to properly use a firearm. People who are scared and have firearms are dangerous as angry people with guns.

        • Big Swede says:

          If I convey a brief statement such as a bumper sticker or starching on an outhouse wall is it my duty to inform you there was no author mentioned? Do you also need the time and place?

          The problem with liberals is not the substance of what is said but more often who said it.

          I’ll call that Judgemental Prickism.

        • No, plagiarism is always wrong. You are always obliged to give credit where due when you are voicing someone else’s thoughts. That is not only basic scholarship, but basic honor. .

        • Big Swede says:

          Make you a deal. I’ll gladly give credit when the author is mentioned and as a bonus I’ll us the abbreviation “AU” for author unknown. Fair enough?

        • I don’t care – it’s not about me. It’s just a matter of character. John Walsh was not taken down without reason. Honor requires citation, always.

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  5. Big Swede says:

    Man up.

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