Note: These FAQs are offered by the Attorney General as a public service to provide answers to basic firearms questions based on Montana law. But firearms are often also subject to the laws of other jurisdictions, including federal laws and even, in some instances, the laws of other states. These FAQs do not address or account for those laws. Moreover, the Office of the Attorney General cannot provide individual legal advice or representation on gun issues. While we hope these FAQs can help address certain basic, reoccurring firearms questions, the Office of the Attorney General strongly recommends that all individuals consult with their own attorneys.
Where do I apply for a Montana Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP)? All CWP applications are received and processed by the local county sheriffs. You should apply for a CWP with the sheriff’s office in the county of your residence.
How long is my permit good for? Four years.
What are the requirements for a Montana CWP? You must be a US citizen and a resident of Montana for at least six months. You must be 18 years of age or older and you must have a valid Montana driver’s license or state-issued ID card, which has a picture of the person identified. You must also demonstrate familiarity and proficiency with a firearm.
What training do I need for a CWP? An applicant for a CWP must “demonstrate familiarity with a firearm” by completion of a hunter education or safety course, a firearms safety or training course, or a law enforcement firearms safety or training course. Military training or other training may also qualify – please contact your local county sheriff for more details.
What if the sheriff denies my request for a CWP? Montana law authorizes an appeal to the district court and then to the Montana Supreme Court if the sheriff denies, revokes, or refuses to renew a CWP. The Montana Attorney General’s office cannot provide legal advice or representation to individuals who have been denied a CWP.
Can I get a non-resident CWP in Montana? No.
What happens if I move to a different county in Montana? Your CWP is still valid, but you must notify the sheriffs of both the old and the new counties of your change in residence within 10 days of your move. If your residence change is to or from a city or town with a police force, you must also notify the chief of police in each of those cities or towns.
Can I carry a firearm in my vehicle even if I don’t have a CWP? Yes. Montana law does not regulate how firearms are carried in a vehicle. If you are traveling interstate please contact the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the state authorities in the other states you will be traveling in regarding any restrictions on interstate transport of weapons.
Are there places or circumstances when I cannot carry a weapon even if I have a CWP? Yes. It is illegal to carry a concealed weapon while under the influence of an intoxicating substance. It is also illegal to carry a concealed weapon in state or government offices or buildings; schools; banks, credit unions, or savings and loan institutions; and a room in which alcoholic beverages are sold, dispensed, and consumed under a license issued under title 16 for the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises. Montana law also forbids carrying firearms on a train. Montana law also allows local governments to regulate the carrying of both concealed and unconcealed weapons in certain areas, including public assemblies, public buildings, parks, and schools. Please check your local regulations.
What about university campuses? Please check with the particular institution for firearms policies.
Does Montana have “reciprocity” with other states? No. Montana law does not provide for “reciprocity” with other states, but Montana does recognize many other states’ permits, and some other states recognize Montana’s permit. The states whose permit Montana recognizes are listed on this website. To determine if your Montana CWP is recognized by another specific state, you must contact that state for information. And remember: the laws of the state you are in govern concealed carry, even if your basis for carrying concealed is an out-of-state permit. So know the laws of each state you are carrying in.
Do I need a CWP to carry a weapon concealed at my own home or business? Generally no, unless some other law prevents carrying at that location.
Do I need a CWP to carry a weapon while hiking or hunting? No. You may carry a concealed weapon without a CWP while lawfully engaged in hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, hiking, backpacking, farming, ranching, or other outdoor activity in which weapons are often carried for recreation or protection.
Do I need a CWP to carry a concealed weapon outside of town? Generally no. You may carry a concealed weapon without a permit if you are outside the official boundaries of a city or town or the confines of a logging, lumbering, mining or railroad camp.
How do the concealed weapons laws affect the carrying of knives? It is illegal to conceal a knife with a blade that is 4 inches or longer. A CWP authorizes a person to carry a knife with a blade that is 4 inches or longer in a concealed manner.
I don’t have a CWP. Can I still carry a firearm as long as it is not concealed? Generally yes, but there are various state and local laws prohibiting carrying of a firearm—concealed or unconcealed—in certain places or under certain circumstances. Consult your attorney.
I am a resident of another state. Can I purchase a firearm from a dealer in Montana? Montana law does not prohibit sales of firearms to out-of-state residents, but federal laws and the laws of your resident state might. Consult your attorney.
Are there any laws governing a private sale of firearms in Montana? Montana law does not regulate the private sales of firearms, but federal law does. Consult your attorney.
Can the owner or proprietor of a residence or business prohibit carrying of a weapon if I have a CWP? Yes, the owner or proprietor of a property may prohibit all weapons on that property.
Can I carry a gun in my purse or backpack? If you have a CWP you may carry a gun in a purse or backpack. If you do not have a CWP it could be considered a violation of the law for you to conceal a gun in a purse or backpack, since the law defines a concealed weapon as one that is “wholly or partially covered by the clothing or wearing apparel of the person carrying or bearing the weapon.” Check with your local county sheriff or county attorney for more information. I’m vacationing in Montana. Can I bring a weapon into your State? Yes. You may legally possess a firearm in Montana as long as you are in compliance with all Montana and federal firearms laws.
What about the national parks? Carrying in national parks is governed by federal law. Consult the federal authorities or your attorney.
What about the Indian reservations? Montana has seven Indian reservations, some of which have their own laws regarding firearms. Please contact the individual tribal governments for information on firearms if you will be visiting or traveling through the Indian reservations.
I just moved to Montana. Can I get a concealed weapon permit issued by the state of Montana? You have to be a resident of Montana for six months before applying for a CWP.
Can I get a CWP if I have been convicted of a felony in Montana? If you have completed your sentence so that your rights are restored pursuant to article II, section 28 of the Montana Constitution, and there are no other legal impediments to receiving a CWP, you may be eligible to apply for and receive a CWP unless (1) the crime included as an element of the offense an act, attempted, act, or threat of intentional homicide, serious bodily harm, unlawful restraint, sexual abuse, or sexual intercourse or contact without consent, or (2) you are under lifetime supervision for having received an enhanced sentence for using a weapon in the commission of the underlying offense. The CWP may be denied, however, if a background check reveals that you are ineligible under state or federal law to own, possess, or receive a firearm. Other circumstances may also affect your eligibility. Please consult with your attorney regarding your specific legal rights. The Office of the Attorney General cannot provide individual legal advice or representation.
What if the conviction is from another state or is a federal conviction? You are probably not eligible for a CWP if the conviction was for a crime punishable by more than 1 year of incarceration or if the crime included as an element of the offense an act, attempted, act, or threat of intentional homicide, serious bodily harm, unlawful restraint, sexual abuse, or sexual intercourse or contact without consent. Even if your sentence has been completed, you may not be eligible to possess a firearm under federal law. Please consult with your attorney regarding your specific legal rights. The Office of the Attorney General cannot provide individual legal advice or representation.
What if my conviction was a misdemeanor? You are ineligible for a CWP if the misdemeanor conviction was for a violation of Mont. Code Ann. § 45-8-327 (carrying a concealed weapon while under the influence) or Mont. Code Ann. § 45-8-328 (carrying a concealed weapon in a prohibited place. Also, if the misdemeanor crime included as an element of the offense an act, attempted, act, or threat of intentional homicide, serious bodily harm, unlawful restraint, sexual abuse, or sexual intercourse or contact without consent, then you are also ineligible for a Montana CWP. Please consult with your attorney regarding your specific legal rights. The Office of the Attorney General cannot provide individual legal advice or representation.Read More »
In February, Attorney General Tim Fox announced that Traci Shinabarger has been hired to develop and implement the State’s new Child and Family Ombudsman Program. The program was created when the 2013 Legislature passed House Bill 76, which directed the Montana Department of Justice to establish the Child and Family Ombudsman Office.
Shinabarger is a licensed clinical social worker and board certified behavior analyst with expertise in child welfare and public affairs. Her clinical experience includes working with foster children and families in New York city as well as Montana. Most recently, Shinabarger was Behavior Analytic Residential Services Director for youths and adults with developmental disabilities at A.W.A.R.E., Inc. “Traci’ s education and experience with both child welfare and public affairs makes her uniquely suited for the responsibilities of the Ombudsman Office,” said Dana Toole, Chief of the Children’s Justice Bureau at the Montana Department of Justice. The Children’s Justice Bureau, which is part of the Department’s Division of Criminal Investigation, will manage the Child and Family Ombudsman Office, which will be located in Missoula.
Nearly one dozen states across the country have ombudsman programs specializing in child welfare systems. Montana’s new ombudsman program offers citizens concerned about child safety an opportunity to work with agencies and providers across the state who care for children at risk of abuse or neglect. Toole added, “Currently, the Ombudsman is organizing the office and preparing procedures to respond to concerns. We are building the program from the ground up, and expect to provide outreach and education to engage families and professionals across the state as we advocate for Montana’s at-risk children.”
The Child and Family Ombudsman Office will begin accepting requests for assistance in April. Shinabarger said, “It’s important to have the foundation of the program in solidly in place so we can provide accurate information. I’m looking forward to increasing the public’s knowledge about Montana’s child welfare system and resolving any issues they may bring forward.”Read More »
On April 1st, a Glendive jury unanimously found former Billings resident Walter Larson guilty of deliberate homicide and tampering with evidence. Larson was convicted of killing his ex-wife Susan Casey in April of 2008 and then dumping her body in the Yellowstone River. Prosecutors on the case were Dawson County Attorney Olivia Norlin-Rieger and Assistant Attorney General Brant Light.
The verdict marked a milestone in the career of Assistant Attorney General Brant Light, 62, who serves as the chief prosecutor in the Attorney General’s Office. The Larson homicide trial marked Brant’s 31st victory in a homicide jury trial since he began his career as a prosecutor; a most remarkable achievement. “Brant has won every homicide jury trial that he’s taken on since he began working here five years ago,” said Attorney General Tim Fox. “The Larson murder trial was a ‘cold case’ that Brant brought back, reviewed, and decided to take to trial. Brant never shies away from tough cases.”
Preparation for complex criminal cases is a painstaking process for Brant and his team in the Montana Department of Justice’s Prosecution Services Bureau. Leading up to the Larson trial, Brant worked 15 hours a day for 17 straight days to put the case together, typical work habits of a man who admittedly considers Sunday a workday and is often the first one to arrive at the office in the morning and the last to leave in the evening.
Now consider that Brant is actively battling lung cancer, and his commitment to justice becomes all the more profound.
“Unquestionably, the most satisfying thing for me is helping families of the victims find justice in these cases,” Brant said. “One of the best feelings in the world is watching the faces of the victim’s family after the verdict is read and knowing that they may find some peace in the fact that there’s been accountability in the death of their loved one. To continue working after being diagnosed with cancer has been the best thing for me.”
Brant has served as the chief prosecutor in the Montana Department of Justice since December 2008, when he was selected by former Attorney General and now Governor Steve Bullock. Previously, Brant was Cascade County Attorney for 14 years. Originally from Anaheim, California, Brant earned a bachelor of arts degree in history and political science from the College of Great Falls. In 1986, he graduated from the University of Montana School of Law and has remained an avid Grizzlies fan ever since.
Light also serves as Prosecution Bureau Chief in the Attorney General’s Office. The Prosecution Services Bureau assists local county attorneys by providing training and by assisting in the prosecution of complex criminal cases, particularly homicide cases. It also prosecutes cases where the county attorney has a conflict of interest; prosecutes drug cases and workers’ compensation and Medicaid fraud cases; and investigates complaints against county attorneys.
In addition to handling many high-profile cases, Brant makes it a priority to provide training for prosecutors all across Montana. His skills as a teacher and mentor have impacted attorneys in various stages of their careers, from new prosecutors to county attorneys to assistant attorneys general.
Dan Guzynski and Joel Thompson, Assistant Attorneys General in the Prosecution Services Bureau, have had the unique experience of working with Brant since they began their legal careers more than one dozen years ago in the Cascade County Attorney’s Office.
“It didn’t matter that I started as the intern,” Joel recalled. “Brant took the same approach with me as with others on our team, getting to know me as a person and expecting me to put in my best effort. My first victory was a trespassing misdemeanor case in District Court. Our office went out and celebrated just like we did after wins in the high profile cases.”
Dan added, “Brant always emphasized the fact that being a prosecutor carries with it a special distinction. He wanted us to learn the importance of making good judgments and ‘fighting the good fight.’ After prosecutors would pass their probationary period, he’d get them a Cascade County Deputy Attorney badge. He was the first county attorney in Montana to do that.”
There are two things Brant tells new prosecutors: “First, the key to being successful is to out-prepare and out-work the other side. That means long hours, and working weekends and holidays if that’s what it takes,” he said. “Second, a young prosecutor must learn the need to find a balance between being aggressive and being compassionate. There are lots of good people who make mistakes and there’s nothing wrong with showing compassion and helping defendants in those instances become productive citizens. There are also many opportunities to be aggressive in handling violent crimes and repeat offenders to ensure the safety of your community. But again, it’s important to find a comfortable balance,” Brant said.
Even after an amazing string of victories throughout his 27 year career, Brant’s extensive pre-trial preparation routine never varies or lessens. Most people watching Brant in court would never know that he writes out every question he’s about to ask witnesses, or that he’s stayed up an entire night studying data crucial for the next day’s trial. “Brant never takes anything for granted,” Joel said. “I’ve never met an attorney who works harder than Brant Light.”
Brant’s equally as passionate about his family and almost equally so about U of M’s Grizzlies. He and his wife, Noella, are the proud parents of twin sons and two daughters, all grown. For nearly twenty years, the Lights have had season tickets to Griz football games, and have attended every home game in Missoula. Brant recalls he and Noella have only missed a single game, and that was to attend the wedding of one of their daughters.
Respected by defense attorneys and judges alike, Brant had formed solid friendships over the years with attorneys across Montana. Most of them would agree that it’s hard to picture him doing anything else, even while battling cancer. “I’ve heard it said that if you love your job, then it’s really not going to work,” Brant reflected. “That’s how I feel. I have a great passion for what I do. If I can continue to help the Attorney General and victims in Montana at the high level that I have set for myself, then I want to continue to do what I love.”Read More »