Governor Steve Bullock (Democrat) is now unencumbered by state laws so long as his emergency directives remain in place. Although Montanans would pray that Bullock not abuse his executive powers to challenge gun rights, the governor has shown himself rabidly hostile to Second Amendment liberties in previous years. Comments Bullock made during his ill-fated presidential run in the Democratic Primary have left Big Sky residents with every indication that he might very well use the coronavirus pandemic to chip away at gun rights.
Montana Shooting Sports Association president, Gary Marbut, has cautioned the governor (who is running for the U.S. Senate Seat) not to cancel Montana’s hunting seasons, a time-honored tradition held dearly by gun owners throughout the state.
In his open letter to Governor Bullock, Marbut wrote, “Some Montanans fear that you and those in your circle could be considering a moratorium on all hunting as a part of Montana’s response to Covid 19. If this may seem far-fetched, we remember that you always claimed to support the Second Amendment, yet when recently seeking the nomination for President you argued in favor of banning certain guns and magazines. Given that history, it’s not such a stretch for Montanans to fear you might try to stop hunting.”
Marbut continued, “No! Just no. The people of Montana have waited and complied with surprising patience as you rolled out various incursions into civil liberties under the guise of fighting this virus. But, no hunting? No way! That’s the double-yellow line.”
Then, the MSSA president lined out the reasons why such a decision would be unwise, including the reality that hunting is done out doors in relative solitude, that Montanans will need to hunt to feed their families, and that it would cause a budget shortage for Fish, Wildlife, and Game.
Marbut also insisted that Montanans would not comply with the orders.
Marbut wrote, “Montana people will NOT comply. Yes, there is a point beyond which the tolerance of Montanan people simply will not go. By trying to stop hunting you would just create more outlaws and disrespect for government and law, as happened during Prohibition.”
The Montana Daily Gazette reached out to Marbut and asked him directly if the coronavirus panic has weakened Montanan’s resolve to defend their gun rights.
Marbut said, “Not among those who normally recognize and defend rights, and the nature of rights. Rights are not gifts from the government. They are areas of free action for individuals that we forbid government to interfere with. The Declaration of Rights in the Montana Constitution, as with the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, is a list of topics from those who empowered government saying ‘Here government may not tread.’ I see the people of Montana as beginning to run out of patience with assertions of government authority, and some of that arguably in violation of restrictions declared in the Montana Constitution.”
When asked if restricting hunting seasons was an omen of possible gun rights restrictions, Marbut responded, “It is time for the people of Montana to begin setting boundaries for government incursion into civil rights in the name of emergency. I thought to begin this boundary-setting by drawing a line in the sand about hunting, which is within my mission area. Others may follow my lead by some public enforcement of other restrictions on Montana government, such as the prohibition in the Montana Constitution, Article II, Section 5., that says state government ‘shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise of religion’.”
He concluded his remarks, “Nowhere in the Constitution is there anything which says, ‘except if people get sick’ or ‘except if the media creates fear,’ or if usurpations are ‘for your own good.’