Gary Marbut’s whole life revolves around guns. He is a firearms instructor, user, competitor, collector and advocate; he makes his own ammunition in the basement of the house he built himself and fabricates steel shooting range targets in his shop. Oh, and by the way, they are not “weapons.” He calmly informed us that “in Montana culture, one does not say ‘weapons,’ because that would imply offensive purposes; here, they are called ‘firearms.’” Gary does everything calmly.
We came to Missoula, MT to talk to Gary because he might be the single most effective individual political advocate for gun rights in the country, at least as measured by laws passed. His group, the Montana Shooting Sports Assocation, has successfully advocated, written and passed more than 50 laws in the Montana Legislature – if you’re hunting elk with a handgun in Montana, thank Gary Marbut. He is also the author of the Firearms Freedom Act, a full frontal assault on the power of the US Government to regulate firearms under the Commerce Clause. Most legal scholars dismiss it as crazy, but ten state legislatures have passed it. As I write this, everybody’s waiting for the US Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. If they overturn it as an overreach of commerce clause power, then Gary Marbut moves one giant step away from crazy and towards being a prophet.
We talked about his vision of the Constitution, but he also taught me to shoot, which he does extremely well; he brags of having taught more than 3500 people the art of armed self-defense. I went from total ignorance to working my way, somewhat credibly, through a practical shooting course, drawing my (or rather, his) Glock 9mm pistol, moving to position, shooting at targets, moving to another position, shooting at those, trying to score both for accuracy and time. It was an exhilarating, terrifying and challenging, and I took to it instantly. Anyone about to argue about firearms policy needs to begin with this understanding: firing guns is really, really fun.
Gary says I did pretty well for a rookie, although on my last go-round through the corse, in which I was trying to break 45 seconds (he did it in 17), I winged one of the “hostages,” a white cardboard silhouette mounted in front of a corrugated brown one.* This cost me a lot of points, but it’s my contention that it twitched at the last second.
But as we were saying farewell, I looked around at his friends going through the course (the best guy was Mike, a retired CPA, who did it in 15 seconds), and I said, “Here you and your friends are, each of you owning multiple guns with more at home. You’re here firing off all the ammo you want, and I’d say you were free to do it till the cops come, but we both know they’re not going to.”
“If they did come, they’d be training on the next range over,” he laughed.
“Right. So what’s your complaint? You have complete and total freedom to own and use firearms all you want. This is a gunner’s paradise. What’s so wrong with the Constitution that you’re trying so hard to fix it?”
“I’m not trying to fix it,” said Gary. “I’m trying to improve it.”
*Yes, I know. I honestly don’t think they mean anything by it.
Samira Gutoc is the founder and managing editor of Atlas and Co. She is also a content writer, blogger, poet, photographer and an editorial associate.