On Special Assignment

Feb 11, 2013 8:45 PM by Angela Douglas - MTN News

Montanans talk gun control and rights

BILLINGS - Firearms are simply a part of life: a tradition, a sport and a right for many Montanans.

"In my family, it's very important. It has been since I was a child and is for my children and grandchildren," explained gun owner Gary Waddingham. "Actually, I have five sons and it's the only thing that all of us do together."

Waddingham's history with firearms runs deep, but for other gun owners like Barb and Bev, it's about having the power to protect themselves and their property.

"To look at one [gun], it would just make me feel sick," Barb admitted. "But I knew that it was my personal responsibility to learn how to shoot and defend myself."

Her friend, Bev agreed.

"I don't want to have a gun and not know how to use it," she said. "I want it to fit my hand and know the proper functions."

In light of recent tragedies nationwide, the debate on gun control is heating up in Washington.

But regardless of which side you're on, the majority of Americans support universal background checks.

"We do have folks that have been able to get a hold of guns that have mental issues," Bev said. "I think that's something that needs to be addressed."

President Barack Obama is now pushing for a ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines, which is where many Montanans draw the line.

"I don't believe that those will make a difference," Barb insisted. "I think that it can only take away my freedom and lessen my freedom to protect myself."

The recent proposed firearm restrictions have prompted major gun sales. Right now the demand for ammunition magazines exceeds the supply.

"We're empty. We do have them coming in and they go as fast as they come in," stated Three Sights Indoor Shooting Range Owner Wade Fredrickson. "Same as with firearms. ARs, pistols, revolvers, it's all in the same kind of category at this point."

Local gun owners are concerned about possible restrictions, but most can agree rules are a necessity.

"No reasonable person, for instance, thinks that a 12-year-old should be able to have a sub-machine gun," Waddingham said. "And once you've admitted that, you've admitted that you should have some rules."

For starters, Waddingham insisted education is crucial.

"Gun classes where somebody says, 'Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you've acquired the target, don't ever point the gun at somebody else, loaded or not,'" explained Waddingham. "I think those kinds of things would do an enormous amount to reduce gun violence."

Although most of his friends are avid sportsmen, longtime Billings resident, Michael Turley, is for gun control, based on some personal connections with gun violence.

"My hometown is Littleton, Colorado, my daughter used to go to the theater in Aurora, one of my best friends took his own life," Turley said. "I would not have dreamed that he even had a gun."

Under Montana law, no state permit is required to purchase or possess a rifle, shotgun or handgun.

Turley believes owning and operating a gun should be just as difficult as owning and operating a vehicle.

"Where registration is maybe annually," he suggested. "That's harder to do and takes more administration costs, but I think that's something that may slow it down a little bit."

Currently there is no state registration of guns in Montana.

The topic of gun control raises passionate testimony from both sides and while lawmakers work to find a solution, many gun owners in Montana are sticking to what they believe is their Second Amendment right.

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