Monday, August 28, 2023

Legal Charges Initiated Over Violation of Montana's Gun-Free School Zone Act


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A court date has been set for Gabriel Cowan Metcalf, who is facing charges for having a firearm in a school zone, in violation of the federal Gun-Free School Zone Act in Billings, Montana. This particular law has been the subject of debate and was deemed unconstitutional in 1994 before undergoing modifications. The last time it was evaluated by the Supreme Court was prior to several landmark gun rights cases. The initial court hearing is scheduled for Monday, August 28, at 9 AM, and the legal complaint is publicly available.

Over a series of weeks, local Billings Police had multiple interactions with Metcalf following several community complaints about him carrying a firearm in public. Despite these interactions, law enforcement found no grounds to arrest him. Metcalf also contacted the FBI to express his concerns about harassment by the Billings Police. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) got in touch with Metcalf through his mother. During this interaction, Metcalf detailed his understanding of gun laws and expressed his dissatisfaction with the police in Billings. A significant part of Metcalf's grievances involved tensions with a neighbor named David Carpenter, who is flagged by local police as someone to approach with caution.

Metcalf, who is 49, stated that he had carried a firearm outside but did not trespass onto anyone else's property. He carried a Rossi 20-gauge, break-action shotgun and noted that he would prefer a handgun for self-defense but lacks the resources to acquire one. His mother, who owns a store, has declined to buy a handgun for him.

Asserting that the Gun-Free School Zone Act is not constitutional, Metcalf claimed he doesn't have any mental health issues and is not a drug user. The complaint also noted that the shotgun he carried is imported, highlighting its involvement in interstate commerce.

In 1995, Montana enacted a law intended to safeguard lawful gun owners from prosecution under the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act. According to Montana law, a person who hasn't committed a violent felony and can legally own a gun under the state constitution is deemed individually licensed, effectively complying with the federal Act's licensure requirements.

Metcalf will be represented by federal public defender Russell Alan Hart, who insiders say is notably skilled compared to typical public defenders.

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