Montana A.G. Walks The Walk


Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen was a keynoter at a banquet hosted
by the Montana Shooting Sports Association. A Big Sky native, he’s a staunch gun rights advocate.

When the Montana Shooting Sports Association gathered last month for a casual (blue jeans, cowboy boots and hats, sport jackets optional) banquet in Missoula, one of the two headline speakers was state Attorney General Austin Knudsen.

When was the last time you heard about an attorney general, the top legal officer in the state, showing up at a gun rights group’s banquet? It would never happen in New York or New Jersey, and definitely not California, Oregon or Washington. But there he was, and he had a very friendly audience.

The Montana native grew up in far northeast Montana, in the small community of Culbertson. According to his official biography, his family has farmed and ranched in that region for five generations. He went to college in Bozeman and earned his law degree at the University of Montana in Missoula.

All of this makes Knudsen as down to earth as they come. He told his audience of about 300 people that he grew up shooting and enjoying firearms.

“I’m passionate,” he said, noting that he is a handloader, which clearly reveals the depth of his involvement in the firearms culture.

Later, in a telephone conversation, Knudsen told me he learned reloading from his grandfather, who worked with the late P.O. Ackley, working up data for the .30-06 Ackley Improved.

Anyone that involved in firearms is going to play political hardball when it matters. Knudsen recalled when gun control advocate David Chipman was Joe Biden’s nominee to head the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, he and others pressured Montana Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, to oppose the Chipman nomination. The same thing will happen with Biden’s more recent nominee, Steve Dettelbach.

Knudsen also criticized the Biden administration for demonizing so-called “ghost guns,” which are nothing more than homemade firearms. Building personal firearms has been a tradition in this country for more than 200 years. (His observation, not mine.)

For the administration to target such guns is flash without substance, he intimated.

“It’s not going to make Montana safer,” he said. “It’s not going to make the country safer…It’s not going to put a dent in the violent crime rate.”

Talk like that can make politicians very unpopular with the media, even the Montana media. It’s the kind of language Knudsen seems to speak fluently, which makes him popular among Second Amendment activists. He’s so gun oriented that he has even written occasionally for an online gun forum.

Speaking to the Montana Shooting Sports Association banquet recently in Missoula,
State Attorney General Knudsen told his audience they must fight to protect their rights.

It is no wonder Knudsen got a warm welcome from the crowd at the MSSA banquet. He was seated at the same table with MSSA President Gary Marbut, and outspokenly pro-gun Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter.

According to Randy Pinocci, a member of the Montana Public Service Commission, over the past four decades, the MSSA “has passed more pro-gun bills … than any other organization in the country.” He credited Marbut’s leadership over the past 40 years for getting that job done.

In 2021, the organization championed elimination of so-called “gun-free zones” and passed permitless carry.

“We also got our bill passed to prohibit state and local employees from enforcing any new federal gun laws,” Marbut said during a brief one-on-one interview.

Marbut has known Knudsen since the latter served in the state legislature. During his legislative career in Helena, Knudsen rose to the position of House Speaker, one of the youngest people to occupy that position in the state’s history, his biography noted.

The attorney general reminded his audience, “We won’t keep our rights if we don’t fight for them.”

Montana Maverick?

Knudsen made headlines in early May when he and two other state attorneys general quit the National Association of Attorneys General, reportedly calling the organization “intolerable.”

He was joined by Texas A.G. Ken Paxton and Missouri A.G. Eric Schmitt and their departure was no small move. They complained the organization has shifted increasingly to the left over the past few years.

There is more to Knudsen and his interest in firearms. He recently headed to Flathead County, where he visited Shield Arms in Bigfork. When is the last time you heard of a state attorney general doing that?

And how about this: “I’m really conscious of the fact there are a lot of politicians who just pay lip service (to gun rights). I won’t do that.

And this: “I try to get as much trigger time as I can.”

As if to underscore that statement, he mentioned he shoots 3-gun matches and enjoys shooting an AR-15.

“That’s who I am,” he said.

During his remarks to the MSSA diners, Knudsen revealed there are “several people in the firearms industry who are interested in moving to Montana.” This brought a cheer from the banquet audience.

Spend any time in Big Sky Country and one begins to understand this is a different place, in a very good way. Knudsen told me during a post-banquet chat that several people are fleeing to Montana from other states, such as Washington. They are apparently escaping from wherever they have been living, he observed.

Montana natives are not adverse to new people moving there, so long as they leave their politics from whence they came.

Knudsen has been in office about 17 months. His term runs to 2024, and he will likely run for re-election at that time. But, he added a caveat: “You never know. Things come up; opportunities come up. Right now, I think my plan would be to stay right where I’m at.”

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia…

The belief smoking is bad for the health took on a whole new dimension recently in Philadelphia, where Fox News reported on the sudden demise of a would-be armed robber who made the proverbial fatal error in his victim selection process.

This late evening caper happened as a 24-year-old homeowner went outside to light up. Not long after he began puffing on his smoke, the homeowner was approached by another fellow, who rode up on a bicycle and pulled a gun on our good guy.

This is where the “big oops” happened. The wannabe robber had no sooner announced his intention to rob the smoker than did the homeowner pull his own gun and plugged the armed man, who took a bullet to the head. Yep, the homeowner is licensed to carry.

Now, apparently being shot in the noggin didn’t put this character completely out of the fight. He reportedly was able to get off a couple of shots, but his aim by that time wasn’t very good, and the bullets missed the homeowner.

When Philly’s finest arrived, they found the 30-year-old attempted robber lying on the sidewalk. He was transported to a nearby hospital, but he died the next morning.

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