HELENA — A pair of pro-gun measures approved by the Montana House hit the Senate Wednesday, including one that would prohibit local authorities from enforcing any federal ban on semi-automatic weapons.
That bill and another to allow hunters to use silencers or sound suppressors on firearms received a favorable reception among members of the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, though the panel did not take immediate action on either bill.
House Bill 302 would not only prohibit local law enforcement officials from enforcing a potential federal ban on semi-automatic weapons, it would also require county attorneys to prosecute those who do.
"Not only is it our right to do this, it is our obligation to do so," said Rep. Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel, who sponsored both measures.
Supporters say the state has the right to set limits on local law enforcement and the bill sends a message to the federal government to stop meddling in gun ownership.
The bill is opposed by law enforcement officials, who call the measure a knee-jerk reaction to a potential federal ban that could lead to criminalizing officers for enforcing federal law.
Opponents also said it was potentially dangerous to allow citizens to force the county attorney's office to prosecute police who enforce a federal ban.
During floor debates in the House last month, some Democrats argued some of the "extreme" measures unconstitutionally attempt to trump federal law.
The state lawmakers' hearing took place the day before a U.S. Senate committee was scheduled to take up four measures related to gun control, including a proposal to ban assault weapons and magazines carrying more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Those bans face long odds of winning approval by the full U.S. Senate.
The Montana committee on Wednesday also considered House Bill 205, the measure allowing hunters to use silencers or sound suppressors on their weapons.
The bill's supporters say that hunters need the suppressor to protect their hearing and legalizing the use of suppressors won't affect poaching, but opponents argue the bill opens the door to illegal poaching and trespassing on private property while hunting.
Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Libby, said the bills are likely to be approved by the committee after amendments, and he predicted a favorable reception by the Republican-controlled Senate.
The state House Judiciary Committee will consider two pro-gun Senate bills Thursday, including Senate Bill 133 that will allow a public defender to carry a concealed weapon. Another pro-gun measure, Senate Bill 145, would require that all information on concealed weapon permits be confidential.