Missoula’s Background Checks Ordinance for Firearm Sales and Transfers between Private Individuals

The Missoula City Council adopted Missoula Ordinance 3581 on September 26, 2016. The ordinance took effect 30 days after adoption. Montana Attorney General Tim Fox issued a formal legal opinion (Volume 57, Opinion 1) on January 26, 2017, stating that Ordinance 3581 was not enforceable. Missoula challenged the attorney general’s legal opinion and prevailed in Montana Fourth Judicial District Court in October 2018.  In October 2019 the Montana Supreme Court reversed the District Court's ruling.  As a result, Missoula ordinance 3581 is NOT being enforced.

Missoula Municipal Code 9.60 (Firearm Sales) requires the completion of a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for firearm sales and transfers within city limits.

Here’s the link to the relevant Missoula Municipal Code:

The District Court’s ruling is available here

An amicus brief filed in support of the City is available here 

The Montana Supreme Court's ruling is available here

Background checks though NICS are facilitated through Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs). The following online FFL locator can be used to find a local FFL: https://www.gunbroker.com/ffl/searchforffl.aspx
Please note that not all FFLs conduct background checks for private sales or transfers.

The ordinance detailed several exceptions to the background check requirement. They are described in 9.60.050 in detail and include the following:

  • transfers between immediate family members;
  • transfers where either party is a licensed dealer;
  • transfers of a curio or relic between licensed collectors;
  • temporary transfers where necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to the transferee;
  • temporary transfers at shooting ranges, organized competitions, or for hunting or trapping;
  • transfers occurring by operation of law upon the death of a person for whom the transferee is an executor, administrator, trustee, or personal representative of an estate or a trust created in a will;
  • transfers where the transferee holds a valid Montana concealed weapons permit or a valid concealed weapons permit from a state recognized under Montana law.

Information about the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System (NICS): https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/nics