While claiming to “bring his Montana values to Washington,” Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont., silently discards our values at the Senate door while voting with his Washington “blue coast” allies to outlaw Montana’s gun culture.
Freshly re-elected in 2012, Senator Tester quietly voted for S-649, which would have expanded background checks to include nearly all firearm transfers. Had Senator Tester’s proposal been in effect recently, it could have put me–and thousands of other Montanans–in federal prison for traditional Montana activities. Here are a few examples:
• After fighting Nazis for four years, my father-in-law returned with a German Mauser rifle as a war souvenir. Without background checks, he gave it to me. However, Tester’s proposed law prohibits firearm gifts to a son-in-law without a background check. It only allows gifts “between parents and their children.” Senator Tester would put Grandpa in prison.
• On my nephew’s birthday, I surprised him with a single shot .22 caliber rifle, a rite of passage in Montana. Tester’s proposed law prohibits gifts to nephews without a background check. It only allows gifts “between siblings.” Now I join Grandpa in prison.
• At our family cabin, we have a spot where family members can safely shoot family guns. Tester’s “family exception” only applies to gifts, not to the loaning of guns. Also, the cabin was owned by my father, so the “home” exception does not apply to me. Now my family goes to prison.
• Each spring friends and I shoot gophers, frequently testing each other’s guns. Tester’s proposed law allows temporary gun transfers “in the home or curtilage of the unlicensed transferor,” but we are afield. Another Tester exception allows gun swapping “during the designated hunting season,” but there is no gopher hunting season. Now my friends head to prison.
• I once loaned a varmint rifle to our rancher host, a former Vietnam sniper, who wanted to test its accuracy. Our host is the firearm recipient, not the lender, so Tester’s home exception does not apply. Moreover, Tester’s narrow exception only allows temporary transfers in the home for “less than 7 days,” but with Glacier Park separating us, I left the loaner firearm with him for several weeks. Now our rancher friend goes to prison.
• Two clients at our law office wanted to show off recently purchased firearms. They picked up and admired each other’s new guns. Tester’s proposal only allows temporary transfers “at a shooting range” that is owned by a “duly incorporated organization organized for conservation purposes,” or at a “target firearm shooting competition under the auspices of or approved by a State agency or nonprofit organization.” Since my law firm is not an organized shooting range, now my clients go to prison.
In Senator Tester’s world, we law-abiding citizens would face constant trips to licensed gun dealers for FBI background checks for common firearms exchanges among family and friends. If we failed to get this background check, Senator Tester believes we belong in crowded federal prisons.
These are blue coast values, not our values, Senator.
Duncan Scott’s family has owned guns in the Flathead Valley for five generations. He practices law in Kalispell.