Alerts & Actions

With Chaos in D.C., Montana Organization Calls for Halt to Legislation Weakening Public Safety Laws

On the same day that armed insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol in a violent act that shocked people and leaders across the nation, the Montana House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a bill that weakens public safety tools to prevent violence, amplifies the suicide epidemic in the state, and further burdens individuals, universities, businesses, and local governments to provide security necessities.

According to the Montana Human Rights Network, the primary activist behind creating House Bill 102, Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, has longtime connections to the militia movement.

“Gary Marbut is no policy expert. Instead, he likes to bully elected officials with the threat of gun politics and gives a megaphone to militia ideas,” says Rachel Carroll Rivas of the Montana Human Rights Network. “Most folks want stability after what happened Wednesday in D.C. Marbut, who has recommended that Montana secede from the Union and offered organizing tips to militia groups, should not be driving policy about public safety right now.”

The Montana Human Rights Network has detailed Marbut’s extensive links to the militia movement and other extremists in its report Shooting for Respectability and in an issue brief detailing Marbut’s efforts to get candidates for sheriff to affirm their support for militia ideas.

HB 102 undermines responsible gun ownership by allowing people to carry concealed weapons practically anywhere in Montana without getting checked out by local law enforcement. This means that people carrying deadly weapons will no longer have to receive training with their firearms, and they can sidestep the established permit system run by sheriffs that has worked well in Montana. The bill also will allow youth to keep guns in dorm rooms and take them to sporting events on college campuses. HB 102 doesn’t address how universities will pay for and manage weapon storage or additional security needed to keep on-campus protests, parties, and sporting events safe.

During the Judiciary Committee hearing, HB 102 was opposed by students, representatives of Montana banks, local governments, and human rights groups. Some of the concerns raised prior to the chaos in D.C. included increasing access to guns for dangerous people and those in unstable mental health situations, thus amplifying the state’s dire suicide problem. Those associated with universities and banks expressed worry about increased security measures that would be required to deal with the risk of gun violence by dangerous people.

Like Marbut, anti-government extremists continually push for easier access to weapons, which play an important role in the violent conspiracy theories based on antisemitism that drive their worldview. These conspiracies generally involve an upcoming battle where they will have to fight off an invasion by one-world government forces or whatever boogeyman happens to fill that role at any given time.

Marbut has promoted these same conspiracy theories. The Militia of Montana published a column he wrote warning that “global power brokers” wanted to achieve “global government,” and that individual rights were being reduced to “ease our assimilation into the global governance of the New World Order.” Back in 1995, Marbut supported legislation urging Montanans to own firearms suitable for use in what was called the “unorganized militia,” which is a code word for groups like Three Percenters and Oath Keepers that have no accountability to local law enforcement or elected officials. While a legislative committee ended up killing the proposal, Marbut said it was a good idea, because it would help people form militias.

“After Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol, it’s clear that those who work with and support militia groups, like Marbut, shouldn’t be treated as legitimate sources of policy information,” says the Montana Human Rights Network’s Travis McAdam. “Instead of offering solutions to make Montana communities safe, Marbut introduces dangerous and divisive ideas that put people at increased risk.”

The Montana Human Rights Network encourages people to contact their legislators using this form and ask them to vote against HB 102.