In January, 2017, Attorney General Tim Fox issued his final opinion that the Missoula Gun Ordinance violated several sections of Montana state law. At a press conference on Wednesday, Mayor John Engen announced that the city has officially appealed that decision to the Fourth Judicial District Court in Missoula.

“The Attorney General’s opinion in 2017 essentially voided the City of Missoula’s universal background check ordinance,” began Engen. “We believe, for a variety of reasons that the city was within its rights to enact that ordinance, and also believes that it was the responsible thing to do on behalf of our constituents. So, today the Attorney General’s opinion serves as law and we would like some resolution on this issue, and therefore are pursuing relief in the court.”

As in the Mountain Water case, the city will be represented by the law firm of Boone Karlberg P.C., as well as an attorney for Everytown for Gun Safety.

“Everytown is providing services on a pro bono basis, while Boone Karlberg will; be on the clock for a maximum of $25,000, so there is minimal expense to the city for us to get an answer to this question, which goes beyond just the simple issue of background check ordinance, it’s a question of the powers of local government as provided through the Constitution and our charter.”

Following, find a statement on background from the Montana Attorney General’s Office:

Attorney General Opinion 57-1

Issued January 26, 2017

A city, town or other local government entity with self-governing powers is prohibited by Montana state law from enforcing a local regulation or ordinance requiring background checks on firearm sales or transfers within its borders.

Click here to view the full opinion.


  • The City of Missoula’s firearm background check ordinance is an attempt by a local government to regulate the sale and transfer of firearms within its city limits.


  • The City of Missoula has no authority under state or federal law to regulate the sale and transfer of a firearm.


  • Multiple sections of State law expressly prohibit local governments in Montana from regulating the sale and transfer of firearms.



  • On September 26, 2016, The Missoula City Council adopted an ordinance requiring that a transferee to any firearm transfer conducted within the city limits of Missoula submit to a background check, subject to certain exceptions.
  • Shortly after the Missoula City Council adopted the ordinance, Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives, Austin Knudsen, requested Attorney General Fox issue an Attorney General Opinion, regarding the legality of the Missoula ordinance under Montana law.

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