HELENA — The Helena chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America marched on the Montana State Capitol Wednesday, following the fatal school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
The group, which advocates for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence, says they’ve been disappointed with the Gianforte Administration, the Montana Department of Justice and the Legislature's stance on gun laws in Montana.
“In light of the recent school shooting, we are once again motivated to reach out to our lawmakers,” said Moms Demand Action volunteer Shani Henry. “We’re extremely passionate today. To be honest, we’re angry and resentful of the lack of effective legislation.”
Governor Gianforte signed gun law reform passed by the 2021 Legislature into law last year. House Bill 102 allows people to carry concealed firearms without a permit in most locations, and with a permit in state and local government buildings.
HB 102 also prohibits the state Board of Regents from banning firearms on state college campuses, although a judge found that a portion of the law violated the Montan Constitution and the powers granted to the Board of Regents. That ruling is currently being challenged the Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen.
Moms Demand Action said they would like to see mandatory background checks, background checks for weapons purchased at gun shows, and look laws that would remove a gun from an individual experiencing mental health crisis.
“We definitely agree, there is a mental health care crisis, it needs to be attended to a funded by the legislators who continually fail to fund mental health care,” said Henry. “If a family has a concern about a family member posing a risk to themselves or others, that law enforcement – for the short term – can intervene and have their firearm taken away from them while they seek mental health care.”
Henry also expressed frustration that their attempts to contact the governor and Attorney General Austin Knudsen on Wednesday by phone and email were initially unanswered, which prompted them to show up at the State Capitol in person
“It is very frustrating, it seems suspicious really to me, that we couldn’t. They do not have the reputation of being very open to meet with us and so we’re here to basically just request that they meet with us and that they hear our concerns,” said Henry.
MTN reached out to the Governor’s Office about the situation, to which they replied:
“The governor is heartbroken for families torn apart by this act of evil, and can't imagine the pain and grief felt by the Uvalde community.
In response to the group’s request this afternoon, the governor's office will make arrangements with them to meet, just as we would any other Montanan that requests to meet with the governor or his staff.”
The Governor’s Office also noted they had no record of Moms Demand Action seeking an audience with the governor before Wednesday.