I Warned Missoula Would Provoke State Legislative Retaliation Five Years Ago And Guess What? I Was Right

by Travis Mateer

I feel charitable this morning, so charitable that I’m going to help out Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick understand why Missoula finds itself in the crosshairs of Republican State legislators this session.

Before getting to the warning I issued five years ago, let’s take a look at the bewilderment Slotnick seems to be experiencing regarding the Missoula-centric attention being paid to our little valley:

In a legislative session with a super majority, a strong governor to back them up, and a real mandate, it may seem strange that outlier Missoula County got noticed at all; why pay attention to us when they’ve got way bigger fish to fry – guns on campus, trans kids and their doctors, spotlight shooting wolves at night etc. But we did get noticed, and I fear it is more about symbology than substance – just like the subjects I referenced above.

Yes, it may seem strange to people with no sense of recent history, but it’s not strange to me at all. Not when I warned five years ago that Missoula’s idiotic gun control ordinance would have consequences. Here’s me explaining how Missoula’s attempt to circumvent state law would backfire:

Since preemption exists at the state level, to avoid litigation (with our tax dollars) gun regulation needs to go through Helena. Von Lossberg wants to ignore this reality, though, claiming this is an opportunity for Missoula to take the lead.

I disagree. What Missoula is doing is creating job security for lawyers and further isolating our community from the rest of the state. There will be consequences for Missoula at the next legislative session over this attempt to go-it-alone in direct conflict with established state law.

Missoula is already a pariah in Helena when the legislature is in session. Missoula politicians have actually had to get politicians from other communities to sponsor legislation because of the anti-Missoula stigma that exists. This local ordinance is the type of political maneuvering that earns our community disdain from the rest of the state.

Now, to be fair, this was a CITY play for symbolic gun control, not a move taken by the COUNTY. Still, it might be good for a County Commissioner like Josh Slotnick to be a little more aware of what his city cohorts are doing to amplify our pariah status with State legislators.

Instead of being more aware, Slotnick decides to conclude his retaliatory op-ed with this:

In our super polarized political world demonstrating your bona fides or publicly flexing your partisan muscles determines success. Missoula has become a powerful political symbol. The legislature does not dislike us because we had functionally no unemployment pre-pandemic, or because we have one of the highest rates of entrepreneurship in the country, or because our best and brightest strive to stay. They don’t despise us for our crazy high real estate values or because we’re an economic engine for the state. They have contempt for us because we are a political totem, a statewide symbol as powerful as guns, taxes, or coal. You’re for or against these things and where you stand says everything about you. “Missoula” is just that radioactive. On symbolism this session, we lost before we even started.

Local control is safe. Just not for us.

If Montana Democrats want to stop losing, I suggest listening to those attuned critics like myself who predicted this would happen.

Or don’t. It’s up to you.

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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