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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More

Montana Gun Laws

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Introduction

Montana is the fourth-largest state and is surrounded by Canada to the north, North and South Dakota to the east, Wyoming to the south, and Idaho to the southwest. Although it is a large state, the population is small and spread out, with Montana being only the seventh least-populous state in the United States. Open carry is legal in Montana even without a license to carry.

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A. State Constitution

Regarding the right to bear arms, the Montana Constitution states:

“The right of any person to keep or bear arms in defense of his own home, person, and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall not be called in question, but nothing herein contained shall be held to permit the carrying of concealed weapons.”

[http://gunla.ws/mt1]

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B. Scope of Preemption

The controlling language of the Montana preemption statute is set forth as follows:

“(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), a county, city, town, consolidated local government, or other local government unit may not 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.” [http://gunla.ws/mt2]

The plain language of this statutory provision leaves preemption an open question. However, each county sheriff can provide information on where concealed weapons are prohibited in their counties. Specifically, be sure to check local regulations, which may restrict carrying concealed weapons at public meetings, and in public parks and buildings. While this is a “friendly” carry state, specific county lists should be gathered to comply with all laws.

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C. Reciprocal Carry

By statute, Montana will recognize another state’s license to carry if that state recognizes Montana’s license:

“A concealed weapon permit from another state is valid in this state if: (a) the person issued the permit has the permit in the person’s immediate possession; (b) the person bearing the permit is also in possession of an official photo identification of the person, whether on the permit or on other identification; and (c) the state that issued the permit requires a criminal records background check of permit applicants prior to issuance of a permit.”

Since there is no national carry license, as with the other states, some states are reciprocal with Montana and some are not.  Anyone contemplating reciprocal carry should check with the official list maintained by the Montana AG at the point in time the reciprocal carry is to occur. States add and delete states with reciprocity agreements over time. Link to Montana AG list of permits it recognizes: [http://gunla.ws/mtcw]

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D. NFA Items

Montana permits ownership of all NFA items, provided they are legally obtained pursuant to federal law. Hunting with suppressors is legal.

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E. Carrying Firearms in Vehicles

Montana permits anyone who is legally allowed to possess firearms to carry them in a motor vehicle without a permit, openly or concealed. The only exception is that a permit is needed to carry a handgun that is “wholly or partially covered by clothing or wearing apparel”. Therefore a permit would be needed to carry a concealed handgun on Your person, but not in the glove box.

[http://gunla.ws/mt3]

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F. Self-defense Laws

Montana has both Castle Doctrine and SYG laws. There is no duty to retreat from any place You have a legal right to be. You may use force, including deadly force, in defense of yourself or others if You reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent imminent death, SBI, the commission of a forcible felony, or to stop the unlawful & forcible entry into an occupied structure if You reasonably believe deadly force is necessary to prevent from assaulting an occupant of the structure or committing a forcible felony in the structure.

[http://gunla.ws/mt4] & [http://gunla.ws/mt5]

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G. Criminal Provisions

Under Montana law, a license to carry a handgun is not valid in any of the following places or circumstances, whether it is issued by Montana, or a person is carrying pursuant to a reciprocity agreement:

  • In school buildings
  • Buildings owned or leased by the federal, state or local government
  • Financial institutions
  • In local areas, some public meetings, and in public parks and buildings [http://gunla.ws/mtcw]

For a list of places where carrying a firearm is prohibited, see:

[http://gunla.ws/mt6]

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H. Duty to Inform Officer

No. Non-residents must always have their permit/license and photo identification with them whenever they carry a concealed weapon and present them to a LEO upon request. [http://gunla.ws/0tog]

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I. Do “No Gun Signs” Have the Force of Law?

No. “No Firearm” signs in Montana do not have the force of law unless they are posted on property that is specifically mentioned in State law as being off limits to those with a permit/license to carry. However, as a possessor with a real property interest, a retailer, has the right to limit, and qualify the right to enter the property, subject to not carrying a handgun. It would be improper to enter, and the licensee would be subject to ejection for possession of a handgun thereat. Failure to leave once requested would subject the licensee to criminal charges.

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J. Carry in Restaurants That Serve Alcohol

In Montana you cannot carry concealed, but you are permitted to carry openly in a restaurant that serves alcohol. Places like Fridays or Chili’s unless they have a “No Gun Sign,” then it is suggested that You not carry into the establishment. This does not include a bar or the bar area of a restaurant – You are prohibited from carrying into these areas. You can carry your firearm into a restaurant that serves alcohol, but you are prohibited from consuming alcohol while carrying a firearm. [http://gunla.ws/su39]

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K. Open Carry (Without a Valid Permit/License)

Open Carry is legal in Montana. Places listed in the “Criminal Provisions” above may apply to those who open carry. The state preempts all firearm laws in the state and local authorities cannot have laws/ordinances against open carry. Federal law prohibits possession by a person under 18.

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FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

Table of Contents

About the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More