When the Montana Shooting Sports Association met last month for a casual banquet (blue jeans, cowboy boots and hats, sports jackets optional) in Missoula, one of the two main speakers was the Attorney General of State, Austin Knudsen.
When was the last time you heard of an attorney general, the state’s top legal officer, showing up at a banquet for a gun advocacy group? It would never happen in New York or New Jersey, and certainly not in California, Oregon or Washington. But he was there, and he had a very nice 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 raised in this area for five generations. He went to Bozeman University and earned his law degree at the University of Montana at Missoula.
All of this makes Knudsen as down to earth as possible. He told his audience of about 300 people that he grew up shooting and enjoying guns.
“I’m passionate,” he said, noting that he’s a manual loader, which clearly reveals the depth of his involvement in gun culture.
Later, in a phone conversation, Knudsen told me that he learned about reloading from his grandfather, who worked with the late PO Ackley, working on data for the .30-06 Ackley Improved.
Anyone involved in guns will play hardball politically when it counts. Knudsen recalled that when gun control lawyer David Chipman was Joe Biden’s nominee to head the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, he and others pressured Montana Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat, to oppose Chipman’s nomination. The same will happen with Biden’s most recent candidate, Steve Dettelbach.
Knudsen also criticized the Biden administration for demonizing so-called “phantom guns,” which are nothing more than homemade firearms. The manufacture of personal firearms has been a tradition in this country for over 200 years. (His observation, not mine.)
For the administration, targeting such weapons is a flash without substance, he suggested.
“It won’t make Montana any safer,” he said. “It won’t make the country any safer… It won’t reduce the violent crime rate.
Talking like that can make politicians very unpopular with the media, even the Montana media. It’s the kind of language Knudsen seems to be fluent in, which makes him popular among Second Amendment activists. He’s so firearms-focused that he’s even written occasionally for an online firearms forum.