Montana Law Taking on Federal Militarization of Police Now in Effect

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Today, a law that will heavily diminish the impact of federal programs militarizing local police in Montana went into effect.

Introduced by Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer (R-Superior), House Bill 330 (HB330) bans state or local law enforcement from receiving significant classes of military equipment from the Pentagon’s “1033 Program.” It passed by a 46-1 vote in the state Senate and by a 79-20 vote in the state House. Gov. Steve Bullock signed the bill into law in April.

Schwaderer told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle he was a surprised Bullock signed the bill. He said he feared the governor would cave in to law enforcement lobbyists who opposed the legislation and veto the bill.

I’m incredibly pleased. In the latter part of the session you see so much partisanship so it’s heartening to see that both Democrats and Republicans could get behind it. It’s no lightweight bill. It substantially changes policy in a way that strengthens the civil liberties of Montanans.

The new law prohibits state or local law enforcement agencies from receiving armored drones, weaponized, or both; aircraft that are combat configured or combat coded; grenades or similar explosives and grenade launchers; silencers; and “militarized armored vehicles” from federal military surplus programs.

But, as The Guardian reported last fall, handouts of such equipment from the Pentagon aren’t the only way the federal government militarizes local police. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants used to purchase such equipment amount to three times the value of the equipment given away by the Pentagon.

HB330 closes this loophole by banning law enforcement agencies from purchasing such military equipment with federal grants. They could continue to purchase them, but would have to use state or local funds, and the agencies would have to give public notice within 14 days of a request for any such local purchase.

“This foundation sets a massive precedent in Montana and the country as to what kind of society we want to have,” Schwaderer said of his bill. “If you get to the point where you need a grenade launcher, we’ve got the National Guard.”

Last March, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law that, while not as comprehensive as the Montana bill, prohibits receipt of equipment from the 1033 program without an express authorization from the local governing body. This made his state the first to take a step towards stopping the federal militarization of police.

“By making it a local decision, the New Jersey law is a great first step, but the Montana law takes things to the next level,” Tenth Amendment Center national communications director Mike Maharrey said. “It closes loopholes and covers almost all the bases. The next step would be to expand the equipment banned, and we’re hopeful that good people in Montana will work on that next session.”


Through the federal 1033 Program, local police departments procure military grade weapons, including automatic assault rifles, body armor and mine resistant armored vehicles – essentially unarmed tanks. Police departments can even get their hands on military helicopters and other aircraft.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) runs the “Homeland Security Grant Program,” which in 2013 gave more than $900 million in counterterrorism funds to state and local police. According to a 2012 Senate report, this money has been used to purchase tactical vehicles, drones, and even tanks with little obvious benefit to public safety. And, according to ProPublica, “In 1994, the Justice Department and the Pentagon funded a five-year program to adapt military security and surveillance technology for local police departments that they would otherwise not be able to afford.”

Local agencies almost never have the funds needed to purchase this kind of equipment, and federal money is the only way they can afford it. By banning purchases with federal funding, HB330 would effectively nullify the effect of such federal “grant” programs.


“Arming ‘peace officers’ like they’re ready to occupy an enemy city is totally contrary to the society envisioned by the Founders,” said Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center. “They’ve turned ‘protect and serve’ into ‘command and control.’”

In the 1980s, the federal government began arming, funding and training local police forces, turning peace officers into soldiers to fight in its unconstitutional “War on Drugs.” The militarization went into hyper-drive after 9/11 when a second front opened up – the “War on Terror.”

By stripping state and local police of this military-grade gear and requiring them to report on their acquisition and use, it makes them less likely to cooperate with the feds and removes incentives for partnerships.

“Sunshine is the salve of good government,” Schwaderer said.

That is exactly what HB330 will start to bring to Montana.


For other states: Take action to push back against federal militarization of your police HERE.

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The Tenth Amendment Center, based in Los Angeles, seeks to limit federal power through action in the states and education.

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11 Comments on "Montana Law Taking on Federal Militarization of Police Now in Effect"

  1. Rachel Flanagan | October 1, 2015 at 6:30 pm | Reply

    I hope Montana’s precedent will encourage other states to step up, and pass similar bills.

    Local, State and/or Federal law enforcement dressing like soldiers on US soil, and purchasing weapons of war with our tax dollars has got to stop. This is what a police state looks like.

    We are not the enemy.

    • Yes you are and I hope the government of the USA continues to treat you as such. The sooner you Americans get serious about killing each other in America the sooner the rest of the world will be safe from you a$$h0les.

      • Rachel Flanagan | October 6, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Reply

        Big bark little doggie.

        Riddle me this, how Am I, a tax paying, small business owner, an “enemy” because I prefer a TANK with 9 LEO looking more like soldiers than local law enforcement to arrest a 90 LB lady for crack possession. In addition 6 police cars, and an ambulance were used to block the streets. 3 undercover drug cars with another 6 officers were also present. The scenario I described happened during the summer. If you can’t see America has become a police state, than you’re a blind man. Kudos to Montana.

        • Your an ignorant parasitic a$$h0le and I have a long list of countries which where invaded by and destroyed by America. Your failure to either stop those destruction’s or die trying makes you guilty. America made a big show of hanging all the Nazi’s they had no use for….following orders or being an innocent civilian was not grounds for doing nothing. You are required by law to police your own government failure to do so makes you an accomplice.

          Yes America is a police state, yes needing that many gestapo and storm troopers to arrest one old lady is over kill.

          Now you know why a large majority of the world hates you and wants you dead because they are real real tired of your police state blowing up their homes. FOaD America.

          • Rachel Flanagan | October 6, 2015 at 8:59 pm |

            Your anger is miss directed, and unrealistic.

            Feel free to share a list of country’s with a populace whom were able to divert invading another country, or war.

            By the war, war is man’s folly.
            So point the judgmental finger right back at the male species.

          • Every last country currently on the planet was formed by invaders who mass murdered the original inhabitants. Americas the biggest stupidest most destructive bullies on the planet are so pathetic they whine about their victims fighting back. I’m tired of your whining, STFU.

            Bullshit, it’s all gods fault he/she/it designed “man” and declared the results perfect.

            Or it’s just a fact that in an active biological environment “animals” compete for resources and on a mass scale humans call it war.

            In either case you are still a pathetic parasitic ignorant a$$h0le and wrong.

  2. Montana will soon become over-populated, watch…:(

  3. We have needed. Get rid of homeland security for a long time. Leave it up to the FBI and the airlines as it was before. Too costly and not enough oversight, not to mention too powerful. They work against the people too much.

  4. Good for Montana! Now let’s get similar laws passed all across the country!

  5. Richard Sievert | October 4, 2015 at 7:12 am | Reply

    When you play god ?

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