The bill’s sponsor is Matthew Monforton, a Republican from Bozeman, who consulted with Marbut on the bill. On Friday he amended the bill to clarify that only government entities could be sued for infringing on a gun owner’s rights to bear arms.

Lobbying lawmakers for a rate hike is one thing, but now Montana’s biggest electric and gas utility is battling to block a referendum on expanding gun rights.

Publicly regulated NorthWestern Energy contends the measure would make it harder to keep their workplaces weapons-free. But the Montana Shooting Sports Association accuses the utility of sticking its nose into a political debate where it doesn’t belong.

“NorthWestern is opposing a bill that has nothing to do with their corporate mission delivering electricity to its customers,” the group’s Gary Marbut told Monday.

He claimed NorthWestern’s opposition was contrary to the interests of its 542,000 gas and electric customers in Montana, most of whom are avid gun owners and hunters.

“Because they are a large corporation and have been given a monopoly by the Public Service Commission, they really have no business weighing in on civil rights,” Marbut said.

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