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Thread: Open carry in Helena Montana

  1. #1
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    Am I confused here, or does Helena's city code violate Montana state code?


    Montana Annotated Code:
    45-8-351. Restriction on local government regulation of firearms. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2), no county, city, town, consolidated local government, or other local government unit may prohibit, register, tax, license, or regulate the purchase, sale or other transfer (including delay in purchase, sale, or other transfer), ownership, possession, transportation, use, or unconcealed carrying of any weapon, including a rifle, shotgun, handgun, or concealed handgun.
    (2) (a) For public safety purposes, a city or town may regulate the discharge of rifles, shotguns, and handguns. A county, city, town, consolidated local government, or other local government unit has power to prevent and suppress the carrying of concealed or unconcealed weapons to a public assembly, publicly owned building, park under its jurisdiction, or school, and the possession of firearms by convicted felons, adjudicated mental incompetents, illegal aliens, and minors.

    Helena City Code
    :
    5-1-32: POSSESSION OF FIREARMS PROHIBITED; EXCEPTIONS:

    A. Prohibition: It shall be unlawful, and a misdemeanor, for any person, other than a peace officer in the discharge of his duties, or a citizen in the protection of his life or that of his family or his property, or any person authorized by law: (Ord. 2719, 9-26-1994)

    1. To carry on or about his person, in any place open to the public, any loaded or concealed firearm, rifle, airgun or pistol within the limits of this city, or to shoot any airgun, rifle, pistol, sling shot or bow and arrow within the limits of this city, except in those areas designated as indoor or outdoor rifle, pistol, shotgun or archery ranges as designated and approved by the city manager. (Ord. 2742, 6-5-1995)

    2. To possess any firearm, airgun or pistol at a public assembly, in a city park, school, or in any publicly owned building, with the specific exceptions of:

    a. Legitimate displays of unloaded firearms at shows or other public occasions by collectors and others; and

    b. Persons participating in hunter or gun safety classes sanctioned by the department of fish, wildlife and parks and authorized by the city or school. (Ord. 2447, 7-27-1987)

    B. Exceptions: Nothing in this chapter shall apply to a person in actual service in the military of the United States or the state, as a law enforcement officer or person summoned to his aid, nor to a revenue or other civil officer engaged in the discharge of his official duties, nor carrying of arms in one's premises or place of business, or where a concealed weapons permit has been granted to bear, concealed or otherwise, a pistol or revolver during the time of such permission. (Ord. 2670, 4-26-1993; amd. Ord. 2742, 6-5-1995)

    I have never had any business in Helena, so I haven't bothered to check with the city soliciter there. However - STRICTLY AS A THEORETICAL EXERCISE - a few things occur to me.
    1. Helena appears to be violating Montana State Code. Although, their bylaw does say the following sections don't apply to those carrying a firearm for defense of self, property whatever. I guess it depends what they consider to be carrying for defense of self.
    2. It seems those with a concealed permit can carry open or concealed according to Helena bylaws, subject to the State Code approved restrictions in the usual publicly owned places and events.
    3. Montana State Code is pretty clear on where cities can and can't pass laws restricting/prohibiting the bearing of arms. That is publicly owned parks and buildings, public meetings, and schools - not the entire area of the city as Helena seems to imply they do.

    Now... would I go to Helena and open carry on city streets, with or without a CCW permit, just to try and prove a point? Not a chance in hell.

    I will, however get around to writing the city solicitor for Helena to get clarification on their city code and how he sees it as fitting within, and complying with, the State Code and State Constitution.

  2. #2
    Regular Member VAopencarry's Avatar
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    It's not to unusual for localities to still have 'illegal' laws on the books. I think you are good to go in Helena. Self defense is self defense, that's why law abiding citizens carry. I would say......

    1) Preemption trumps their local statute.

    2) the self defense exception apply's to regular folks but they could then throw a gun charge at someone using a firearm for crime. (Crime does not =self defense.)

    3) IT's frikkin Montana, if you can't OC there the country is in big trouble.!
    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." - Thomas Jefferson

  3. #3
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    Jaeger wrote:
    Am I confused here, or does Helena's city code violate Montana state code?


    Helena City Code
    :
    5-1-32: POSSESSION OF FIREARMS PROHIBITED; EXCEPTIONS:

    A. Prohibition: It shall be unlawful, and a misdemeanor, for any person, other than a peace officer in the discharge of his duties, or a citizen in the protection of his life or that of his family or his property, or any person authorized by law: (Ord. 2719, 9-26-1994)
    A. Prohibition: It shall be unlawful, and a misdemeanor, for any person, other than a peace officer in the discharge of his duties, or a citizen in the protection of his life or that of his family or his property, or any person authorized by law: (Ord. 2719, 9-26-1994)[/b]
    [/b]
    I think the key to the law is that it is prohibited by anyone not authorized by law. To me it seems that if you are authorized by state law to carry a firearm then you are exempt from this local statute.
    "A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity."

    "though I walk through the valley in the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for I know that you are by my side" Glock 23:40

  4. #4
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    Simply put, Montana State law overides the City ordinance. It's the same way for any city in Montana.

    As VAOpencarry said above, you are good to go in Helena, like any of Montana, should you so choose to.



    Matt

  5. #5
    Regular Member lprgcFrank's Avatar
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    I OC'd my 1911 the last time I was in Helena - several stores, restaurants and in my hotel - never got a second glance...

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