October 3, 2023
Mountain Line was recently compelled to announce an unwelcome change to our weapons policy—a change forced upon us not by choice, but by legal necessity. As of October 1, 2023, our buses will now only prohibit unlawful weapons. However, our existing policy banning any kind of weapon in Mountain Line buildings remains in place.
This change is in reluctant compliance with a Montana state law enacted in 2020, which severely restricts local government’s ability to regulate firearms. As a government agency, the Missoula Urban Transportation District (MUTD) is legally bound to comply. We have maintained our original policy as long as we could, but recent threats left us with no viable alternative.
Let us be unequivocally clear: this decision was made neither lightly nor willingly. Since late August, when MUTD became aware of a potential lawsuit from a pro-gun special interest group, we have consulted with legal experts and other agencies around Montana and across the country to determine what recourse, if any, was available to us. The MUTD Board of Directors and senior staff have spent many hours deliberating on the best available course of action to keep our employees and passengers—as well as the wider community—as safe as possible. The conclusion is inescapable: resisting this change would likely be a futile and costly endeavor.
We strongly disagree with the notion that allowing firearms on public transit serves the best interests of the community and the people who regularly use or operate buses. The legislation as written did not adequately consider public transit, safety, common sense, and local expertise, and the current law undermines our commitment to ensuring the safety of our employees, passengers, and the community.
While we are forced to comply with state law, we are not silenced by it. MUTD is actively investigating avenues to push back against this requirement and fully intends to do so.
In the meantime, we are choosing to prioritize employee and passenger safety in our new policy by reducing the risk of unnecessary confrontation or aggressive challenges to the weapons ban. By removing the need for operators to confront those attempting to bring weapons on board—focusing instead on passenger behavior, rather than what they may be carrying on their person—we expect to continue to provide as safe an environment on board as we can. Any threatening, dangerous, or aggressive behavior will continue to be prohibited, as it always has been. Mountain Line is confident in our operators, supervisors, and safety procedures, and we trust that the community members who use our service will continue to treat their fellow Missoulians with care and respect.
We invite those with questions or concerns to contact us directly.
MUTD Weapons Policy, effective 10/01/2023:
No unlawful weapons shall be brought aboard MUTD vehicles. In cases where the law allows the possession of weapons, individuals may not display or handle these weapons in a manner that could reasonably cause fear or alarm among other individuals or District employees.
No weapons of any kind are permitted inside MUTD buildings. District employees are prohibited from carrying firearms, knives, or any other weapons on MUTD property, including in vehicles. Any exceptions to this policy must be approved in writing by the General Manager.