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Anti-gun advocates nationwide have been pushing for universal background checks. These require background checks for all firearm sales and transfer of ownership. It would require a grandfather and grandson to both undergo a background check if the grandfather wanted to give his grandson one of his guns. 

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox issued an opinion on Thursday that the city’s controversial universal background check requirement on gun transfers is prohibited by state law.

The nine-page opinion came at the request of Montana House Speaker Austin Knudsen, R-Culbertson, and held Missoula’s local ordinance was in violation of state preemption laws. While Fox said there are some local gun laws a city can adopt, he feels the Missoula measure went too far.

“Plainly interpreted, the Montana Legislature has prohibited all forms of local government from exercising any regulatory power over the purchase, sale or transfer of firearms,” wrote Fox, who more than a year before the ordinance was passed warned it “likely violates our constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”

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The mandated expansion of background checks — to include virtually all gun transfers including private sales — was proposed in Montana’s second-largest city in 2015. It drew almost immediate fire from critics including gun rights groups and two out of three of Montana’s congressional delegates, but, with the support of gun control advocates, passed last September in an 8-4 vote.

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