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Montana man to remain jailed after weapons charge near elementary school

Billings Federal Courthouse
Posted at 1:04 PM, Aug 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-29 15:04:54-04

BILLINGS - A Billings man accused of bringing a gun in a school zone will remain jailed as his case goes on, a federal court judge ordered Monday following the man's initial appearance.

Gabriel Metcalf, 49, is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm in a school zone related for allegedly carrying a gun onto public property within 1,000 feet of a school, which is a violation of federal law.

During Metcalf's initial appearance Monday morning, his defense attorney argued that Metcalf knew he was in a school zone but did not know he crossed off of his property and onto public property when he allegedly carried a firearm onto the sidewalk in front of his house.

An agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) testified that Metcalf was advised of the federal law before he was arrested and that Metcalf told law enforcement he believed the law to be unconstitutional.

Ultimately, Judge Timothy Cavan ordered Metcalf to stay in custody while the case plays out, stating there's no reason to think if he was released, he wouldn't do it again.

For parents of Broadwater Elementary School students, it's a relief that the situation is taken care of for the time being.

“I feel pretty comfortable with it. I feel better," said Amanda Martin, whose daughter is in kindergarten. "I feel like he won't be able to just get out and simply continue on like he had previously.”

Last Monday, right before the first day of school, an alert was sent to parents advising them of repeated sightings of a man with a gun across the street from Broadwater Elementary School.

That man was Metcalf, who was arrested by ATF agents Tuesday afternoon.

The federal gun-free school zones law has been in place for 33 years. It was passed into law in 1990.

There have been efforts to repeal this law, including the Safe School Act — a bill introduced last April by Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky.

Montana Congressman Matt Rosendale, a Republican, signed on as one of 24 co-sponsors for the bill.

“It gets back to making sure that we have the local community have local control over what's taking place on providing security for that school system," Rosendale said. "When the federal government inserts themselves into making mandates, what happens is everybody gets treated the same. And we cannot treat the schools in Billings the same way that we would in Lindsay, that we would in Columbia Falls."

The bill's last action was being referred to committee and Rosendale is unsure it will be picked up when Congress convenes.

Metcalf's next hearing has not yet been scheduled.