Both of the bans outlaw the possession of firearms at all polling places, parks, schools, museums, libraries and city council chambers. The first is an ’emergency’ ordinance, effective immediately, and additionally includes a clause banning guns in “any other locations of public assembly where persons gather together to conduct and/or administer any public election while election-related activities are taking place.”
This first ordinance will last 90 days. The second, follow-up policy makes the ban permanent and takes effect after 30 days. Previously, weapons and explosives were prohibited in public school buildings and in the City Hall only. The penalty for violating the ordinances is a $500 fine with no jail time listed as a punishment.
Speaking in favor of the bans, local pastor Jean Larson, allegedly affiliated with Moms Demand Action, said:
“I urge you to pass this amendment, to make all the citizens of Missoula safe as we go to the polls to vote. As we enjoy our public parks, and as we testify before you here.”
“Gun violence is a public health emergency in our country,” Larson also stated. “Ninety-five per day are killed with guns. We have a need and a right to be safe from this public health emergency.”
Michelle Kearny, a Missoula resident, delivered an eloquent statement against the ordinance:
“Unless the council has information that has not been shared with the public regarding imminent threats to citizens during voting activities or otherwise, I see no need for this emergency ordinance. I see it as yet another thinly veiled attempt to usurp our constitutional right as Americans, the right to keep and bear arms.
“I believe it’s unreasonable to restrict the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens who have completed training and testing to qualify for a concealed carry permit, on the basis that legally carried weapons, especially legally concealed carried weapons might pose a greater threat to the voting or general public. Quite simply, the facts state otherwise.”
A number of CCW license holders and gun owners also came out to speak before the vote.
“I have grandchildren who I would be afraid to be at a park not knowing that there was somebody there would could come to their aid immediately,” said one woman. “I’m sorry, but our police are spread way too thin as it is.”
Julie Armstrong, a councilwoman who voted against both amendments, called the ban “totally unenforceable.” Referring to lawful gun carriers, Armstrong also said, “I feel strongly that this is the group we want to support. We want to have them on our side.”
Unfortunately, neither she nor the other two council members (Michelle Cares and Jesse Ramos) were able to convince the other eight to vote against these gun bans.