MISSOULA — A Montana court has denied changes to the wording of a ballot referendum that would limit local governments’ ability to enact gun restrictions.
The Montana Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday to uphold the existing language because it satisfied state law requiring the proposal to be “the true and impartial explanation of the proposed ballot issue,” The Missoulian reported.
The referendum was put on the ballot during the 2019 legislative session in response to a 2016 Missoula ordinance requiring background checks for all gun purchases made in the city.
“I am pleased the court upheld the language that was thoughtfully crafted to be a neutral description of this referendum,” state Attorney General Tim Fox said.
Fox wrote the language in the referendum that has been backed by 50 Republican state lawmakers since the matter was taken to the state Supreme Court, officials said.
Multiple organizations including the Montana Federation of Public Employees, Montana School Boards Association, city of Missoula and others opposed the language in the ballot measure.
The measure would take away a local agency’s ability to restrict firearms from parks, public assemblies and schools, attorneys for those groups said. The language also doesn’t mention that schools are “local governments” under Montana law, and would be subject to the changes.
Advocates of the measure said it would not restrict a school board’s ability to regulate firearms on campus grounds.