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Montana lawmaker claims Constitution says it’s okay to shoot socialists

HELENA, MT – The Montana Republican Party on Saturday condemned a comment made by a state GOP lawmaker who said the U.S. Constitution calls for people who identify as socialists to be jailed or shot.

According to the Billings Gazette, in responding to a speech in Helena on Friday by former US interior secretary Ryan Zinke, Billings state representative Rodney Garcia said “he was concerned about socialists ‘entering our government’ and socialists ‘everywhere’ in Billings, before saying the constitution says to either shoot socialists or put them in jail.”

According to the paper, Zinke, who served in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2018, replied: “You know, Montana’s a great state.

When asked by the Gazette to clairfy his comments, Garcia responded, “So actually in the constitution of the United States [if] they are found guilty of being a socialist member you either go to prison or are shot.”

According to Anthony Johnstone, a law professor at the University of Montana contacted by multiple media outlets,  “nothing in the Constitution of the United States authorizes the government to punish socialists or anyone else on the basis of their political beliefs.” In fact, the First Amendment prohibits punishing political speech, and the Constitution of Montana “expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of political beliefs,” Johnstone said. All state lawmakers swear an oath to uphold those doctrines.

Spenser Merwin, the executive director of the Montana Republican Party, said in statement the party wholeheartedly condemned Garcia’s comments. 

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