Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Montana Is Second State to Slow Police Militarization

Last Thursday Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed into law the strongest prohibition yet by any state against accepting “free” used military equipment from the federal government. A month ago New Jersey Chris Christie signed into law prohibiting such “free” used war materiel without express approval from the local governments involved. Montana’s new law outright prohibits any department in the state from receiving drones that are armored or weaponized (or both), military aircraft, grenades or grenade launchers, silencers and “militarized armored vehicles.”

In New Jersey the bill passed both houses unanimously; in Montana the House voted 79-20 in favor while the Senate voted 46-1 in favor. Under the new law police departments remain free to purchase such materiel, but they would have to use their own funds (not federal grants), and they would have to notify the public about the intended purchase at least 14 days in advance.

The difference between the laws was spelled out by Mike Maharrey of the Tenth Amendment Center:

By making it a local decision, the New Jersey law is a great first step, but the Montana law takes things to the next level. It closes loopholes and covers almost all the bases.

The next step would be to expand the equipment banned, and we’re hopeful that the good people in Montana will work on that in the next session.