Guns Laws in Montana
Permits are not required by the state of Montana to purchase a handgun, rifle, or a shotgun. Montana also does not require that shotguns, handguns, and rifles be registered. Some states require that their citizens be licensed before owning any shotguns, handguns, or rifles, but Montana does not require this licensing.
Permits are also not necessary for carrying shotguns and rifles but are mandatory for carrying any kind of handgun. Handguns are often referred to as concealed weapons as they are small enough to be fully covered without much effort. Montana requires a permit to have a concealed weapon inside city limits but no permit is required outside city limits.
Montana is the fourth-largest state and is surrounded by Canada to the north, North Dakota and South Dakota to the east, Wyoming to the south, and Idaho to the southwest. Although it is a large state, the population is small and spread out, with Montana being only the seventh least-populous state in the United States. Open carry is legal in Montana even without a license to carry.
Carrying Firearms in Montana
The state of Montana states that it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon without the proper permit. Concealed also means fully covered or partially covered in anyway while on the body. This can be by clothing or other object.
This permit does not apply to specific individuals inside their line of work or certain outdoor activities. These include peace officers, individuals outside city boundaries, individuals working in lumbering, logging, railroading, or mining camps, or individuals participating in fishing, hunting, camping, trapping, framing, backpacking, hiking, ranching, or any other activity out of doors where weapons are carried for added protection. Carrying a concealed weapon without a permit is also allowed in and on an individual’s personal property or personal business.
Those who apply for concealed weapon permits will file through the proper county sheriff and will usually have a permit approved after sixty days. This permit will need to be renewed after four years as stated by Montana law. To apply an individual must be over the age of eighteen, be a United States citizen, be a Montana resident for at least six months, and have picture identification as issued through the state of Montana.
The county sheriff many deny a concealed weapons permit if the state of Montana deems the individual ineligible to possess a firearm; if there have been charges for a federal or state crime amounting to one year or more of incarceration; if there is a pending court judgment for a state or federal criminal offense; if a sentence was determined due to threats or attempted acts; if there was a dishonorable charge from the United States military; if the individual is in the use of controlled substances or abuses alcohol; if there is an outstand warrant for arrest; or if the individual was deemed mentally ill.
Possessing a Firearm
Because no permit is needed to possess a firearm, other laws apply in Montana. Minors under the age of fourteen are not allowed to use or carry a firearm in a public vicinity unless aided by a guardian or parent. It is also illegal to possess a firearm while on school property, which includes the storing of and the carrying of a weapon by a student. Montana law states that parents are prohibited from allowing children from possessing firearms on school property.
Open Carry (Without a Valid Permit/License)
Open Carry is legal in Montana. Places listed in the “Criminal Provisions” above may apply to those who open carry. The state preempts all firearm laws in the state and local authorities cannot have laws/ordinances against open carry. Federal law prohibits possession by a person under 18.
By statute, Montana will recognize another state’s license to carry if that state recognizes Montana’s license:
“A concealed weapon permit from another state is valid in this state if: (a) the person issued the permit has the permit in the person’s immediate possession; (b) the person bearing the permit is also in possession of an official photo identification of the person, whether on the permit or on other identification; and (c) the state that issued the permit requires a criminal records background check of permit applicants prior to issuance of a permit.”
Since there is no national carry license, as with the other states, some states are reciprocal with Montana and some are not. Anyone contemplating reciprocal carry should check with the official list maintained by the Montana AG at the point in time the reciprocal carry is to occur. States add and delete states with reciprocity agreements over time.
Carrying Firearms in Vehicles
Montana permits anyone who is legally allowed to possess firearms to carry them in a motor vehicle without a permit, openly or concealed. The only exception is that a permit is needed to carry a handgun that is “wholly or partially covered by clothing or wearing apparel”. Therefore a permit would be needed to carry a concealed handgun on Your person, but not in the glove box.
Montana has both Castle Doctrine and SYG laws. There is no duty to retreat from any place You have a legal right to be. You may use force, including deadly force, in defense of yourself or others if You reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent imminent death, SBI, the commission of a forcible felony, or to stop the unlawful & forcible entry into an occupied structure if You reasonably believe deadly force is necessary to prevent from assaulting an occupant of the structure or committing a forcible felony in the structure.
Under Montana law, a license to carry a handgun is not valid in any of the following places or circumstances, whether it is issued by Montana, or a person is carrying pursuant to a reciprocity agreement:
- In school buildings
- Buildings owned or leased by the federal, state or local government
- Financial institutions
In local areas, some public meetings, and in public parks and buildings
Do “No Gun Signs” Have the Force of Law?
No. “No Firearm” signs in Montana do not have the force of law unless they are posted on property that is specifically mentioned in State law as being off limits to those with a permit/license to carry. However, as a possessor with a real property interest, a retailer, has the right to limit, and qualify the right to enter the property, subject to not carrying a handgun. It would be improper to enter, and the licensee would be subject to ejection for possession of a handgun thereat. Failure to leave once requested would subject the licensee to criminal charges.
Carry in Restaurants That Serve Alcohol
In Montana you cannot carry concealed, but you are permitted to carry openly in a restaurant that serves alcohol. Places like Fridays or Chili’s unless they have a “No Gun Sign,” then it is suggested that You not carry into the establishment. This does not include a bar or the bar area of a restaurant – You are prohibited from carrying into these areas. You can carry your firearm into a restaurant that serves alcohol, but you are prohibited from consuming alcohol while carrying a firearm.