Firearms Background Check Ordinance Details Clarified at Council Meeting
The Missoula City Council's Public Health and Safety Committee met on Wednesday morning to hear more details about a proposed ordinance to require more comprehensive background checks on guns bought and sold privately in Missoula.
The idea of the ordinance is to ensure that sales and transfers of firearms in Missoula that are not completed at a federally licensed firearm dealer, such as between friends or at a gun show, must undergo the same comprehensive background check found at dealers.
Councilman Bryan Von Lossberg provided details on aspects of the ordinance that had come into question during recent public hearings.
"Councilwoman Bentley recommended an edit to the ordinance regarding enforcement, that does remove jail as an option for the first offense," Von Lossberg said. "It keeps the offense as a misdemeanor with a fine up to but not more than $500, however, subsequent violations do carry the possibility of imprisonment."
Von Lossberg said the responsibility of enforcing the ordinance would fall solely upon the Missoula Police Department. Public Information Officer Travis Welsh said
"Would the Missoula Police Department enforce any ordinance that was enacted by the city council, and the answer is yes," Welsh said after speaking with Chief Mike Brady. "The PD would enforce the ordinance, but that is not to be confused with the actual transfer of a firearm between two parties or the paperwork which needs to be completed by an FFL (a dealer with a Federal Firearms License).Those would be completed by those federal license holders."
Von Lossberg said those wishing to buy and sell guns privately would be required to obtain the paperwork for an official background check and take it to a federally licensed firearms dealer, who would have the option of accepting or refusing the request, and could charge a normal fee for processing.
Appearing at the hearing was Hayes Otoupalik, manager of the annual Missoula gun show at the Adams Center, who said the ordinance would place an undue burden on private individuals at the show.
"Compliance of the provisions of any state or other law affords no immunity under federal laws or regulations," Otoupalik said. "So, you're asking this dealer to do all this private transfer work and he has to assume the responsibility of storing all these records and taking care of them and making sure they're all properly done, and if he doesn't, it's a felony."
Von Lossberg reiterated the statistics that drew his interest to sponsoring the ordinance in the first place, that in the 18 states where these more comprehensive background checks are done on all firearms sales, public and private, that crime numbers have been significantly reduced.
"Substantially lower suicides with guns and women shot and killed by intimate partners in those states," von Lossberg said, "that's 46 percent fewer women shot and killed by intimate partners and 48 percent fewer people committing suicide with firearms."
The entire council will vote on the proposed ordinance at a later date.