By Michael Howell
Stevensville Mayor Gene Mim Mack has issued a letter to the Town Council vetoing the portion of the recently passed weapons ordinance that would prohibit the carrying of firearms in the Town’s parks. Saddled with an outdated ordinance that prohibited the carrying of firearms, whether openly or concealed, anywhere in the Town’s limits, which was judged to be in violation of state law, the Council adopted a new ordinance that allowed open and concealed carry except in municipally owned buildings, at public assemblies, at the schools and in the town’s parks. In those places firearms were still prohibited.
Mayor Mim Mack told the Council in his letter that he believed they had appropriately considered the impact on the public of prohibiting the carrying of weapons at public assemblies and at the schools, but he felt they had not fully enough considered the impact on the public if guns were prohibited in the parks.
Mim Mack stated in his letter that the town was uniquely situated in the county between Missoula and Hamilton and attracts a lot of “out of town” visitors to its parks and that the impacts of the ordinance on those people needed to be considered.
“We took considerable testimony from the public surrounding the need to protect themselves while visiting our parks,” wrote Mim Mack. “While I believe our parks are safe for all users, many do not. Our ordinance as adopted may not fairly balance the way a person chooses to provide for their safety while in a park…My veto of this ordinance is intended to permit the council to reconsider the impact on public safety within our regionally used parks.”
He went on to state that, “Important to this reconsideration is an understanding and an acceptance that we are a diverse community of people with many different views.”
State law requires the Council to act at its next Council meeting, scheduled for Thursday, June 13 at 7 p.m. to either override or confirm the Mayor’s veto. It takes a two-thirds majority of the full Council – in this case, three of the four Council members – to override a veto.