Tuesday, March 22, 2011

gun billls before Montana legislature

I wish Texas had activists of the caliber of Gary Marbut.


----- Original Message -----
From: Gary Marbut-MSSA
To: mssa@mtssa.org
Sent: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 12:41 PM
Subject: "Gun bills" in Senate Judiciary Committee

Dear MSSA Friends,

We've had three bills pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee, HB 174 (Suppressors), HB 271 (Permitless Carry) and HB 384 (Prohibited Places). The committee took executive action (discussion, amendments, votes) on all three yesterday.

HB 174. There is still a LOT of misinformation about what suppressors are, how they work and what they do and don't do. The Hollywood version continues to prevail. Misinformation is rampant. One Republican senator voted against HB 174 because of calls stirred up among ranchers by the Montana Stockgrowers Association. These people claim that if HB 174 passes they will have a huge surge in trespass and poaching, problems ranchers would not be able to interdict because they would occur "silently." A Democrat senator asserted that suppressors are perfectly legal to use right now and HB 174 is unneeded, notwithstanding that 87-3-123 makes it a crime to take a suppressor "into the field or forest." Another Democrat who says he is a bowhunter education instructor claimed that it is "unethical" to kill animals "silently" with a suppressor (even after being told that a suppressed hunting rifle still makes a sonic boom of 105 decibels, twice the OSHA safe sound limit. I say again, misinformation is rampant. The Committee tabled HB 174.

HB 271. The Committee passed HB 271 with what I consider a minor amendment. HB 271 would allow a person to carry a concealed weapon (put on a coat - it's about "coat control") inside city limits without a permit if the person is eligible to apply for a permit (non-criminal adult resident with training). The amendment would require the carrier to have proof of training on their person while carrying permitlessly. HB 271 now goes to the Senate floor for Second Reading. Contact your senator and tell him or her you want HB 271 to pass.

HB 384. The Montana "prohibited places" statute, 45-8-328, is a nonsensical, unreasonable law. Although it prohibits concealed carry in a bar (including restaurant with liquor license), bank or public building, it does not affect open carry. So, a person can now legally carry openly in a bar, but may not carry concealed. Also, there is no exemption for cops in 45-8-328, so a detective with a jacket over his gun entering city hall commits a crime if he doesn't remove his coat. HB 384 would exclude from the effect of 45-8-328 anyone with an active CWP, and police officers. However, the Committee tabled HB 384.

We are working on possibilities to resurrect HB 174 and HB 384. I'll paste below my comments about opposition to HB 174.

Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Association
author, Gun Laws of Montana

Suppressor bill, HB 174

There are an unfortunate number of Montanans who have bought into the disingenuous arguments of opponents of HB 174. Let me explain.

Current law and history. Suppressors (incorrectly called "silencers" by those who only know them from the movies) were demonized during the Prohibition Era as being the tools of rum-running gangsters. That's when laws were enacted in Montana to make possession of suppressors illegal. Those laws included making it a felony to even be in the same room with a suppressor, even if it was legally registered with the federal government.

In 1997, MSSA ran a bill to clean up these nonsensical suppressor laws. We left two relevant laws on the books, one to make it a crime to commit a crime with a suppressor (no robbing banks with suppressors), and another to make it a state crime to possess a suppressor NOT registered under federal law.

Still illegal. We missed one. We missed a law in the fish and game section of the Montana law books that makes it a crime in Montana to "take into the field or forest" a suppressor. What does this mean? Who knows, but it's probably imprudent to take a suppressor outside city limits - into a "field or forest." You could be charged with a crime. Not only is it a crime, it is also a "gun crime" for which the FBI could take away your right to possess firearms forever under the federal Brady Law.

HB 174. HB 174 would simply repeal this archaic law that makes it a criminal offense to be "in the field or forest" with a suppressor.

Arguments against HB 174. The arguments against HB 174 are ever so disingenuous. Here are the primary arguments against.

Using suppressors is legal in Montana now - no fix is needed. Wrong. Read the law.

87-3-123. Use of silencers or mufflers on firearms forbidden. A person may not take into a field or forest or have in the person's possession while out hunting any device or mechanism devised to silence, muffle, or minimize the report of any firearms, whether the device or mechanism is operated from or attached to any firearm.

Suppressors are illegal anyway. Wrong. It is perfectly legal to own suppressors under federal law. Yes, a buyer must jump through a LOT of hoops. First you must pay the business selling the suppressor - the full price (most of $1,000), but you cannot take possession of the suppressor yet. Second, you must get a letter of permission from the local sheriff. This includes getting fingerprinted, a mug shot and a criminal records background check. Third, with this material in hand, you can then fill out the application to the BATFE. You send in the application with a check for $200. The BATFE will take about nine months to process the application. Once approved, the BATFE will send you the tax stamp. Only then can you go to the seller and pick your already-paid-for suppressor.

Nobody has suppressors. Wrong. There are LOTS of legally-owned suppressors in Montana. There are probably more than 2,000 people in Montana who have jumped through all the hoops described above to legally own a suppressor.

Suppressors "silence" a hunting rifle just like in the movies. Excuse me? Come back to reality. There are two components to the sound a rifle makes, the muzzle blast and the sonic boom of the bullet flying through the air faster than the speed of sound. Suppressors reduce (NOT "silence") the muzzle blast. Suppressors do absolutely nothing to the sonic boom. At the rifle, the muzzle blast may be louder than the sonic boom for a very high-powered, unsuppressed rifle. However, for anything more than about one hundred yards downrange, the sonic boom is the loudest part of the gunshot sound. The sonic boom is constant throughout the supersonic flight of a bullet, about 1,000 yards for a .308 Winchester. The level of sound from a bullet sonic boom is 150 decibels, twice the amount of sound deemed unsafe by OSHA for a person without hearing protection. This volume of sound emanates from the bullet throughout its supersonic travel and is most of what a person hears from a distant rifle shot.

Hunting with a suppressed rifle is not "ethical." This is an argument made for irrational people. First, will the people making this argument also insist that archery hunting is unethical because it's so quiet? Probably not because such people find no need to be consistent. Okay, the opponents admit, but what about an animal being hit by a silent bullet at a longer distance than an archer can shoot? Isn't that unethical? For the mushy-headed, it's back to Physics 101. Remember that hunting rifle bullets are supersonic, right? That means they go faster than the speed of sound, right? That means that the bullet from EVERY hunting rifle hits the animal before the sound gets to the animal, right? The animal is silently shot before the sound gets there from either a suppressed OR unsuppressed hunting rifle. Okay, the dogmatic opponent admits, but if you miss your shot at the animal, for ethical hunting the animal should hear the sound so it can run away. Back to Physics 101. Remember the sonic boom - 150 decibels - twice that allowed by OSHA without hearing protection? Suppose your shot flies a foot above the elk you shoot at. Are you really arguing that an elk can't hear a 150-decibel sound originating a foot away. Anyone who would make the "ethical" argument about suppressors is certainly challenged, but not by "unethical" suppressors.

Legalizing suppressors will only cause more poaching. Let's get one thing straight for starters. Criminals break the law. That's just what they've chosen to do. Poachers will poach. Okay, say the opponents, but if people are allowed to legally use suppressors they will use them to poach, increasing poaching. Let me see if I get this argument right. A person who is so law abiding that he will wade through a ream of local and federal paperwork, get fingerprinted and photographed, get a letter of permission from his sheriff, pay up to $1,000 for his suppressor, and pay another $200 to the BATFE will then use this precious device to commit a crime that puts his hard-won suppressor AND his ability to possess any firearm at risk. Right.

A rancher won't know if somebody is trespassing and hunting with a suppressor. Back to physics 101. Except near the muzzle of a hunting rifle, most of the noticeable sound from a rifle shot comes from the sonic boom, 150 decibels, unsafe for unprotected hearing according to OSHA. Suppressors only reduce the muzzle blast at the rifle, but do nothing to decrease the sonic boom downrange. There is a zone of about 100 yards surrounding the shooter where the muzzle blast is louder than the sonic boom. Beyond that distance, most of what a rancher hears from a gunshot now is the sonic boom. That would not change with suppressor use. What would change is that if the rancher is within 100 yards of a suppressed rifle upon discharge, the rancher would still be less than 100 yards from a 150-decibel sonic boom. The "rancher won't hear" argument will only make sense to a person totally inexperienced with suppressors (movies only), and who slept through Physics 101 in high school.

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