An expansion of background checks for gun purchasers who live in the city of Missoula has been proposed at Missoula city council and passed out of committee this week. Councilman Bryan von Lossberg helped to draft the ordinance and explained its intent.

"The main purpose of the ordinance is to try to reduce gun violence by helping prevent the possession of firearms by those who should not have them, namely convicted felons, those adjudicated to be mentally ill, illegal aliens and minors," von Lossberg said.

Lawsuits have been threatened if the ordinance passes. Opponents say that such an ordinance would conflict with state law and cite MCA 45-8-351 which reads:

45-8-351. Restriction on local government regulation of firearms. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2), a county, city, town, consolidated local government, or other local government unit may not prohibit, register, tax, license, or regulate the purchase, sale or other transfer (including delay in purchase, sale, or other transfer), ownership, possession, transportation, use, or unconcealed carrying of any weapon, including a rifle, shotgun, handgun, or concealed handgun.

(2) (a) For public safety purposes, a city or town may regulate the discharge of rifles, shotguns, and handguns. A county, city, town, consolidated local government, or other local government unit has power to prevent and suppress the carrying of concealed or unconcealed weapons to a public assembly, publicly owned building, park under its jurisdiction, or school, and the possession of firearms by convicted felons, adjudicated mental incompetents, illegal aliens, and minors.

(b) Nothing contained in this section allows any government to prohibit the legitimate display of firearms at shows or other public occasions by collectors and others or to prohibit the legitimate transportation of firearms through any jurisdiction, whether in airports or otherwise.

(c) A local ordinance enacted pursuant to this section may not prohibit a legislative security officer who has been issued a concealed weapon permit from carrying a concealed weapon in the state capitol as provided in 45-8-317.

Von Lossberg directs citizens to the city attorney and said the focus needs to be on what a subsection of that law says.

"In subsection two, it expressly states that a city has the power to prevent and suppress the possession of firearms by convicted felons, those adjudicated for mental incompetence, illegal aliens and minors," von Lossberg said. "It certainly is a point of controversy, and I'm not an attorney."

A public hearing before the full city council is expected to occur on October 19th.