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Missoula City Council votes to ban firearms in some public places

Missoula City Council votes to ban firearms in some public places

Missoula City Council members passed two ordinances on firearms in public places late Monday night. An emergency ordinance goes into effect immediately, and a regular ordinance will go into effect in about 30 days.

The ordinance prohibits guns at all polling places, schools, parks, libraries, museums and city council chambers. It also includes places of public assembly such as protests or demonstrations.

Council members wanted an emergency ordinance so it will be in effect before the upcoming election, since it includes a weapons ban in polling places. An emergency ordinance expires after 90 days, so they had to pass a regular ordinance amending the original ordinance on firearms in public places.

The previous public hearing brought out only a few speakers, but Monday night’s meeting was a full house with people on both sides of the ordinance.

Public comments went on for over an hour.

"I know that 285 kids have gained access to a firearm since 2017 and shot themselves or others. Having guns in parks all around in places where the public gathers increases the likelihood that someone will be part of an unintentional shooting,” said Dannette Fadness, speaking in favor of the ordinance.

Mike Starmer, who has a concealed carry permit in both Montana and Arizona, says he is a responsible gun owner and only carries to protect himself from attack.

"I don't carry a gun to be a vigilante. I have no desire to use my weapon to protect someone else -- just myself -- nor do I want to be a complement to local police or law enforcement,” said Starmer.

Exemptions from the ordinance include peace officers, people participating or displaying guns at shows authorized by the city or a school and people participating in hunting or gun safety courses.

Council member Julie Armstrong proposed an amendment excluding holders of concealed weapons licenses who are in good standing, but the amendment failed.

After a lengthy public hearing, council voted to pass both ordinances. Both passed with an 8-3 vote. Armstrong and council members Jesse Ramos and Michelle Cares voted against the ordinances.

The penalty for violating the ordinance is a $500 fine, but jail time is not a stated punishment.

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