Gallatin County Courthouse File

The sun sets on the Gallatin County Courthouse in this February file photo.

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Two new state laws are prompting Bozeman and Gallatin County to change local rules related to the open and concealed carry of weapons.

Referendum LR-130 approved in November by Montana voters restricted the authority of local governments to regulate the carry of permitted concealed weapons and reduced local authority to prohibit the carry of open or unpermitted concealed firearms.

House Bill 102, signed into law by Gov. Greg Gianforte on Feb. 18, allows for concealed carry weapons with a permit to be the default across the board, with exceptions in federal buildings, detention centers and courts of law.

Bozeman city commissioners voted Tuesday to give first approval to an ordinance updating the city’s gun laws to align with HB 102 and the referendum and permit concealed carry in city buildings.

City commissioners unanimously approved the ordinance but expressed reluctance. It will come back for a second vote on the consent agenda at a future meeting.

“We don’t have much choice in this matter,” City Commissioner Jennifer Madgic said. “I’m sorry that we’re having to do some of this.”

A new ordinance discussed at Tuesday’s Gallatin County Commission meeting would clarify that all county buildings allow concealed carry. At the Law and Justice Center there will still be screening by a metal detector and a pair of sheriff’s deputies at the entrance to the building.

A previous ordinance prevented concealed carry in county buildings, said County Commissioner Scott MacFarlane said.

The courthouse, where the Gallatin County Commission meets, now allows concealed weapons with a permit into the premises under HB 102. Despite the original ordinance, checking for concealed weapons was not commonplace in the building.

“People very well could’ve had concealed carry weapons all the time at the courthouse and nobody was verifying that,” MacFarlane said. “We don’t really feel like it changes much for us”

The city ordinance prohibits the open and unpermitted concealed carry of weapons in city facilities and allows the city to screen people for firearms and other weapons. The ordinance also applies to other weapons, like a knife with a blade longer than 4 inches, a sword, a straight razor, a throwing star, nunchucks, and brass or other metal knuckles.

Under the new state laws, the city can’t prohibit permitted concealed carry in most city facilities.

Some public buildings are exempt, like secure areas of law enforcement facilities.

The city ordinance also includes some updated language and redefines what city facilities fall under the ordinance to be more flexible as new city buildings are built.

MacFarlane added that some staff are concerned about their safety with the new law rippling its way into the courthouse.

“It has caused a little bit more awareness for our staff,” MacFarlane said. “Some people may just feel a little less secure now knowing that there’s just no way for us to prohibit anything, even though we didn’t really have a way to enforce it previously.”

Tuesday’s vote was the first of two for the county. The second will come later in July. If approved, any changes have 30 days to take effect.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated where the county ordinance allowing concealed carry would apply. It will apply in all county buildings.

The second vote on that ordinance will come later in July. 

This story was updated to more accurately reflect the impact of LR-130.

 

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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