Montana Senator Steve Daines hosted a round table discussion at the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office with nearly a dozen law enforcement personnel from various agencies specifically targeting the meth crisis in Montana.

Speaking first was the host Sheriff T.J. McDermott, who emphasized how heavily armed so many of the meth traffickers are that are coming through Missoula.

“It seems like these traffickers are more frequently carrying weapons because they’re afraid of being robbed or being victims of shooting by other dealers,” said McDermott. “When we deal with them in law enforcement more and more these traffickers have firearms, so it’s a very dangerous situation for our deputies and for all of law enforcement.”

Missoula Police Detective Guy Baker, a member of the FBI Drug Task Force, echoed Sheriff McDermott’s comments.

“The amount of firearms,” began Baker. “I know T.J. said something about 70 seized on that, I know we’re up to 200 that our task force has seized in the last four years, including automatic weapons and body armor from these guys. A lot of gang affiliates are trafficking dope into Montana and Missoula from source cities in Washington, specifically Spokane, Yakima and the Tri Cities, so the associated violence that we’re getting with these criminals who are willing to pull the trigger is becoming more prevalent in our community.”

Ravalli County Drug Detective Scott Burlingham spoke directly to Senator Daines in a manner that reflected the frustration felt by many in law enforcement.

“There seems to be an attitude by many of our elected officials that prison is not the appropriate place for drug dealers,” Burlingham began. “Those people are stupid. Those who refuse to take their own addictions seriously, it is better that they be kept in prison rather than they be allowed to spread more poison on our streets. We need to make it hard and painful for drug dealers in Montana, so hard that they want to stay out of our state. Some people say that’s too harsh and mean, and frankly, I don’t care what those people think.”

Burlingham had more comments for Senator Daines about the effects of drug trafficking in Montana.

“These drug crimes are connected with almost every other crime that we have,” he said. “All of our property crimes are related to dope and much of our sexual abuse and child abuse are related to dope. In the end, when all is said and done, the same people are always the victims, the children. Always.”

Others on the panel included representatives from the HITDA Task Force, the FBI, the Montana Highway Patrol, the DEA, as well as sheriffs from Lake and Lincoln Counties.