Montana’s hunting opportunities are legendary. But those in Big Sky Country also value their firearm freedoms for another reason: Montana ranks 48th in terms of population density, so it can take a while for law enforcement to arrive on the scene.
Luckily, as the accounts below show, most Montanans are prepared to take responsibility for their own safety.
A woman was at home in Billings, Mont., when she went to her car to retrieve her purse. Upon grabbing the purse, the woman heard a suspicious noise and drew a .380-caliber pistol from the bag. A man then attacked the woman, who responded by firing at the criminal, prompting the attacker to flee the scene. (KRTV, Great Falls, Mont., 5/13/2015)
A man approached the home of a 77-year-old man in Missoula, Mont., and threw a chair through a window to gain access to the house. Upon becoming aware of the intruder, the homeowner retrieved a gun and fired at the burglar, striking him once. Once authorities arrived, the wounded man was taken to a local hospital where he is expected to survive. Missoula Detective Sgt. Scott Pastian noted that police suspect drugs may have been a factor in the attempted burglary. (The Missoulian, Missoula, Mont., 9/16/2013)
A woman was at home in Billings, Mont., when her estranged boyfriend came to her front door, and when he was refused entry, kicked in the back door of the house. As the abusive ex-boyfriend came inside, the woman retrieved a gun and forced him from the property. The woman then called police, who captured the criminal a short time later. Evidently, the firearm the woman keeps for self-defense proved more persuasive than the order of protection issued against the ex-boyfriend in December. (Billings Gazette, Billings, Mont., 4/17/2013)
A man entered Lolo Drug pharmacy in Missoula County, Mont., and demanded oxycodone from the pharmacist. The pharmacist and owner, an 80-year-old Army veteran, responded by retrieving a gun and ordering the criminal out of the store. The robber complied, and according to police was screaming on his way out. The criminal should have known better than to take on Lolo Drug, as this isn’t the first time the pharmacist has encountered a robber. During the last attempt in 1999, when a criminal drew a gun on the pharmacist, he wrestled it away and aimed it at the robber, causing him to flee. (The Missoulian, Missoula, Mont., 10/6/2011)
Andrew Atkinson was looking for trouble one Wednesday night as police were called to investigate a disturbance he had caused at a Malta, Mont., tavern. Still on the scene at the tavern, police were then called to a nearby home where an intruder had been reported. Robert Taylor said that a man, later identified as Atkinson, had forced his way through Taylor’s front door. After a fierce struggle, the 59-year-old homeowner shot Atkinson in the leg. Both men were hospitalized, and Taylor was released with minor injuries. Upon his release from the hospital, Atkinson was to be arrested and charged with burglary, according to Phillips County Sheriff Tom Miller. (Great Falls Tribune, Great Falls, Mont., 6/3/2004)
Jeff Grenfell was playing a video game in his Billings, Mont., home with his neighbor and his neighbor’s son one Saturday evening when two men rang the doorbell. When Grenfell answered, the pair pushed their way inside and began physically attacking Grenfell throughout the house. Backed against a workbench, Grenfell managed to get his hand on a screwdriver, which he used to stab one of the invaders. Both men fled, whereupon a neighbor, waiting with a .44 Mag. handgun, detained them until police arrived. (Billings Gazette, Billings, Mont., 12/13/1998)
Appraiser Clark Wheeler, 41, heard breaking glass shortly after midnight while working alone in his downtown Bozeman, Mont., office. He grabbed his .357-caliber handgun and walked down the hall to investigate. Wheeler surprised a man who had picked up a computer monitor and “encouraged him to leave” by yelling and firing a shot. The man fled. Wheeler later said he has no plans to stop working late. (Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Bozeman, Mont., 4/13/1998)
Great Falls, Mont., resident Earl Burrows returned home to find his driveway blocked by a vehicle. Burrows went into his home, retrieved a shotgun, and confronted the man, who was burglarizing his garage. The crook is suspected of breaking into more than 20 garages in the neighborhood that evening before running into Burrows. (The Tribune, Great Falls, Mont., 3/18/1996)