This week has seen two interesting cases where typical Republican priorities have come into conflict with their love of the idea of guns in the hands of every man, woman and child in the state. In one case, a man convicted of sexual assault is suing to get his gun rights restored, and in another, a Montana sheriff is being sued for his refusal to issue a concealed carry permit to an immigrant resident.
The first story comes from the Billings Gazette and is about the efforts of Timothy Baldwin and the Montana Shooting Sports Association to restore gun rights to a man convicted of sexual assault without consent and a man convicted of theft. In 2013, the Montana Legislature passed a law restoring gun rights to felons in some cases, but federal law does not necessarily require that a person be removed from the gun ban list. It’s an issue with a complex background, as another story in the Billings Gazette in 2014 points out. In that story, though, a gun dealer made it clear that after some crimes, like rape, a person should not be sold a gun:
Ochsner, who owns Axmen Firearms, said a convicted rapist attempted to purchase a firearm from him a few years ago and he refused to sell to him. “There was no way I would sell a gun to a person if I thought they wouldn’t be safe,” he said.
As is normally the case, the MSSA sits squarely outside of the mainstream on this issue. I can’t imagine that many Montanans would agree that someone convicted of a sexual assault should ever have the right to own a gun again, and whether he used a gun in the assault wouldn’t matter one bit.
Baldwin, who sits on the Board of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, confirming that there are at least two members of the organization, told the Gazette that he’s also working on cases to restore gun rights for people with DUIs and domestic violence charges. That’s in keeping with the extremist agenda of the MSSA, which, despite its outsized influence over Republican legislators, is far out of the Montana mainstream.
A second case presents even more dissonance for Republicans. In Flathead County, Sherriff Chuck Curry is being sued by a Slovakian immigrant who was denied her concealed-carry permit because she’s not a citizen. If there’s one thing Montana Republicans hate more than they love the Second Amendment, it’s immigrants—and this case places those two values squarely at odds. Given their aversion to the protections of the 14th Amendment when it comes to so many other facets of life, it’s revealing that conservatives are only concerned when the right to carry a gun is threatened.