HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s governor is standing by his recent comments that he’d support a ban on some semiautomatic weapons, saying Tuesday that it’s one of several measures that should be considered to curtail gun violence.
The two-term Democratic governor, who is considering a 2020 presidential run, first voiced his support for a weapons ban Sunday in answer to a question posed during an interview on CNN. Gov. Steve Bullock held a news conference in the Montana Capitol on Tuesday and clarified his position: No taking away weapons from law-abiding gun owners and no ban on semiautomatic weapons that are conventionally used by hunters.
“When I view an assault weapons ban, it’s sort of military, semiautomatic, typically removable clips, a magazine of 10 or more — it’s like the AR-15s,” Bullock said of the rifle that has been used in several mass shootings, such as the one earlier this year at a Parkland, Florida, school shooting where 17 people died.
Bullock said gun violence should be looked at as a public health crisis and that he wants a conversation on a range of restrictions that would make schoolchildren and communities safer. They include universal background checks, cracking down on straw purchases of weapons, banning bump stocks and passing so-called red-flag laws that allow a court to temporarily restrict a person’s access to firearms.
“Frankly, I’m just tired of lowering the flags for school mass shootings and I’m tired of gun violence being part of our collective discussion for a week or two after another mass school shooting and then we move on,” he said.
Montana Republican Party chairwoman Debra Lamm said the state’s residents are now seeing Bullock for the “gun-grabbing liberal” he really is after he spent years promising that he would protect gun rights.
“In his absurd look at a run for president, he’s trying to court the liberal coastal elites by backing universal background checks and a ban on semi-automatic guns,” Lamm said. “That’s a non-starter for Montanans.”
Amy Hunter, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, said Bullock is kowtowing to the gun control lobby and dismissing the constitutional rights of his constituents.
“By doubling down on his support for a ban on commonly owned rifles, Gov. Bullock proved beyond any doubt how out-of-touch he is with Montana voters,” Hunter said.
Gun control advocates praised Bullock for supporting a ban and other policies.
“I’m hopeful the Montana state legislature will follow Gov. Bullock’s lead and pass common-sense laws to keep our families safe,” said Kiely Lammers, who heads the Montana chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Bullock said he is not proposing any specific bills or policy changes at this time. He also denied that the timing of his announcement had anything to do with his exploration of a possible presidential bid.
Bullock is in between trips to early voting states, after speaking at the Iowa state fair last week and heading to New Hampshire on Friday.