I don’t own a gun. Never have, never will.

If you read this space regularly, that’s probably not a surprise to you. I’m 59 years old, and I’ve managed to walk the streets — even a few mean ones — without ever feeling like I needed one. If I did carry one, I’m probably one of the people who would accidentally kill a loved one, an innocent stranger or myself.

It’s at this point where most people writing about this subject from my point of view usually say, “But I believe in the Second Amendment, and a person’s right to have a weapon.”

That’s the course a lot of politicians and many pacifist writers take, generally, because they don’t want to tick off the National Rifle Association or be seen as a wimp. Well, I’m not running for any office, and I’ve read so many hate letters and emails from NRA members and what I’ll politely call “gun enthusiasts” that nothing surprises me about what they say anymore. Their guns could hurt me, but not their words.

But if you feel compelled to write a hateful comment at the conclusion of this column, go ahead. That’s your First Amendment right, and I would never want to be accused of taking it away from you.

As for the Second Amendment, it’s like the First. It may help protect us, but it’s not absolute. We don’t have the right to threaten to kill someone, whether it’s using words or a weapon. It’s legal to carry a gun in most places in this country, because society has made that choice. In Wyoming, if you have 75 bucks and you can pass a background check and take a single gun safety course, you have the right to carry a concealed weapon.

If it makes you feel safer, go ahead. But I think reasonable people should agree that you don’t have the right to carry any type of weapon any place you want to, including to a school or college, or on private property when the owner says it’s not welcome.

I think we need to recognize the role of public safety in everyday life. You may obey all of the laws and believe no person or government should keep you from taking a gun any damn place you want to have it. But there are restrictions that have been placed on their legality that have developed over time, and the reason you can’t conceal a weapon at an educational institution or most governmental meetings is because other people don’t feel safe if you do.

The Wyoming House wants to change those rules and allow guns pretty much anywhere except a courtroom. I’m glad lawmakers at least see it’s not a good idea to allow people to pack heat in a volatile place where judges and juries and lawyers make comments and decisions many people may not be happy about.

But a city council or legislative meeting or public school are also places where it doesn’t make sense to say the Second Amendment gives you the absolute right to bring your gun and holster. It doesn’t, because we’ve made reasonable regulations against doing so. The Wyoming House may believe the gun laws in this state need to be changed, but I hope the Wyoming Senate has enough sense and wisdom to say those guys and gals at the other end of the Capitol didn’t make a good decision, and stop them from carrying it out.

I’m sick and tired of hearing the argument that gun-rights absolutists always make whenever there’s a mass shooting somewhere: If only people in the school or shopping mall or movie theater had weapons, everybody would be safer. They maintain the good guys will simply pick off the bad guys, and no one will ever get caught in the crossfire and up the body count because some people want to pretend they’re Dirty Harry.

Do I feel safer knowing a hero-in-waiting sitting next to me at a ball game is going to try to protect all of us? I do not. Primarily because if he starts shooting at an assailant, he’s liable to hit an innocent bystander or two, maybe even more. And if the shooter starts aiming at him, I’m the guy who may end up in a body bag.

A lot of NRA members will say I don’t know what I’m talking about, and that trained, law-abiding citizens need to be able to defend themselves as well as the poor, brainless idiots like me who won’t buy a gun.

Last month a Texas group, The Truth About Guns, wanted to prove that people are safer when some in the crowd are armed, so they devised a demonstration to prove it. They did a re-enactment of the Charlie Hebdo mass shooting in Paris, arming one of the people who portrayed the magazine’s staff. In their world, gun rights advocates know for a fact that a well-armed citizenry will stop any attack.

But in the Charlie Hebdo experiment, that’s not what happened. The group staged the massacre at the magazine nine times, using paintballs, and the results probably made the NRA faint: There was never an example of the armed staff taking out both of the shooters; it was either one or none. And when they did manage to hit one, only two were “fatal” shots.

Meanwhile, all but one person who died during the real tragedy were also killed in the re-enactment, and this gun-carrying sole survivor didn’t use a gun to save himself, he used his legs. He ran from the scene when the paintballs started flying. Good for him.

The Texas gun group didn’t have to make their experiment public, but I’ll give it credit for not hiding the facts and giving the world an example that — sorry about this — shot holes in the NRA’s longstanding “truth.”

I’ll end with a little day brightener for people who are shaking their heads at my inability to protect myself, my family and those around me.

I have fired very few weapons in my time. Occasionally, for the sake of a better story, I’ve tried my (shaky) hand at it, with less than stunning results.

Years ago, I did a feature on a man who lives near Cheyenne who wanted — for a reason I can’t even remember — to promote musket shooting. He loaded the rifle with black powder, and pointed to a target that seemed so far in the distance I thought he was kidding.

“Now that’s got a pretty powerful kick,” he told me about the weapon he placed in my hands. He didn’t lie — after my shot, I was propelled backward with alarming speed, and only someone behind me stopping my fall kept me from hitting the ground and landing on my butt.

Back sort of steady on my feet, I looked at the target. “Did I hit it?” I asked. No, the laughter from my new companions told me my shot wasn’t even remotely close. I did prove, though, that I can hit the broad side of a barn, even if I wasn’t aiming at one.

So if the Wyoming Repeal Gun-Free Zone Act passes and is signed into law, don’t sit by me at a city council meeting or a high school football game if you want to feel safe. As I’ve just confided, I’m not going to protect you and be able to save us if anyone tries to take out some spectators. The best I can offer you is some snarky and hopefully amusing comments about whatever action is going on in the council room or on the field.

I know, it’s not much. But take comfort in the fact that if I was armed, I’d probably accidentally shoot someone testifying or selling popcorn in my attempt to protect you. You don’t want that on your conscience, do you?

— Columns are the signed perspective of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of WyoFile’s staff, board of directors or its supporters. WyoFile welcomes guest columns and op-ed pieces from all points of view. If you’d like to write a guest column for WyoFile, please contact WyoFile editor-in-chief Dustin Bleizeffer at dustin@wyofile.com.

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. “I don’t own a gun. Never have, never will.”

    In the words of Dirty Harry, “it is good for a man to know his limitations.”

    Paul Rudd

  2. Why do people call police when criminals threaten lives? If you think the presence of guns increases the danger, then the police will only make it worse, because they always bring guns. Maybe Mr. Drake will favor a bill to disarm police – or perhaps make them trade in their guns for bear spray.

    Many people shoot more, and better, than the police do. Some train more hours each year than the police are required to train.

    Mr. Drake should stay away from city council or legislative meetings or public school, because there is usually an armed person present, a police officer.

    There are no guarentees of safety in life. Having an armed citizen, or an armed police officer near you will not guarentee your safety. Outlawing their presence will not guarentee your safety either.

    Chris Smith

    1. People call police because police generally have training and preparation not only to handle firearms, but to manage crisis situations.

      Robin Van Ausdall

  3. Excellent, Kerry — simple and well worded. Most of us know that the existence of a gun in the home greatly magnifies the chances that the owner or their friends or family will be killed or injured by it. Indeed, Dr. David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health was involved in a well-controlled study (with some restriction on the data they were allowed to collect) that conservatively calculated that, in gun-related incidents in homes, the chance that the gun owner (or a family member or friend) was killed or injured, was a 37x greater than the chance that the gun was used to successfully deter an intruder or otherwise in genuine self defense. Bear spray is a far superior option for self defense. It is safe, it can be successfully deployed against a poorly defined target, and it will immediately immobilize the target — faster than a bullet, in most cases. Now, extend that to people casually packing guns outside the home. As you say, the NRA argument that this will somehow make us safer is wildly absurd. Are there really any statistically meaningful examples of situations when a person carrying a concealed weapon in a public place in the US has undeniably saved one or more innocent lives? Our son, 17, a high school senior, has been accepted at the University of Wyoming for entry in the fall of this year. He has decided, and we support him, that if this bill passes he will not attend.

    Brot Coburn

    1. Where will your son attend? Many states, including Colorado and Utah, already allow concealed carry on public college campuses.

      Don Wills

  4. More anti-gun nonsense from Mr. Drake. Plus a few facts that are wrong, too. To wit:

    “In Wyoming, if you have 75 bucks and you can pass a background check and take a single gun safety course, you have the right to carry a concealed weapon.” False: in Wyoming, it is legal to carry a gun openly or concealed without any license whatsoever.

    “you can’t conceal a weapon at an educational institution or most governmental meetings is because other people don’t feel safe if you do.” False: in Wyoming, it is legal to carry a gun openly or concealed in all municipal buildings, including to city council meetings, county commissioner meetings, etc. The only governmental building that HB-114 expands gun carrying to is the capitol building.

    “The Wyoming House wants to change those rules and allow guns pretty much anywhere except a courtroom.” False: HB-114 specifically allows private property owners to decide about guns. Whether malls, restaurants, and all other publicly accessible private property allow visitors to carry guns is not altered by HB-114. There are a whole lot more privately-owned places folks go than government-owned property.

    Don Wills

    1. Mr. Wills, I dont know if this article should be considered Anti-Gun more than it should be a plea for what MR. Drake sees as common sense. I work at a college, and my wife works at UW. I am an instructor and I too am worried about this. Colleges are a place were individuals are meant to come and discuss hard topics and use our minds to solve problems, both within ourselves and our communities. This law promotes bringing weapons into a place where they do not belong. Many of my students are veterans, and some of these men and women deal with a door slamming in the hall way differently than you and I. How am I and other instructors supposed to reasonable feel safe when challenging our students and handing out grades (yes, sometimes they are bad grades, and as you can imagine, students tend to get upset at times) when some individuals have a gun on their hips? And when one student brings a gun to class, how are we to address other students and their feelings of safety? (This last one I would LOVE a response on as I am struggling with this and still have not been able to nail down an answer of how I am going to handle that in my classroom…help me out here).

      Scott Crist

      1. Well said Scott.
        My daughters are both well trained hunters, but I would never put them in their college classes, armed, and expect them to shoot accurately at a friend/classmate who may be brandishing a weapon. This bill is insanity at best.

        In Wyoming we have padded rooms where we put students who are out of control.(Yes, we do, and they are used with some frequency) It is a sad commentary they we even have a need for these rooms, but to then introduce firearms into this system?

        I have had the unfortunate experience of needing to protect myself using a firearm. Thankfully no shots were fired because if I had pulled the trigger in that moment, I cannot guarantee the bad guy would have been hit. I was shaking, I was scared and the bad guy had a gun too. My most sincere gratitude to the Ft. Collins PD for showing up when they did!

        To pass this bill is not only giving an opportunity to someone who may be having a really bad day to do some serious damage, but it is also placing the expectation of protecting others on the shoulders of the by and large untrained masses. I am simply not comfortable with this.

        Jennifer Wilson

  5. The primary sponsor of the bill is Rep. Allan Jaggi. Now let’s talk about why you might not want him in the same area either.

    On 11/23/2004 Alan Jaggi turned himself in to the Game & Fish and was subsequently cited for Taking Big Game/Trophy Animal with the Wrong Type of License. The case went through the Uinta County Circuit Court, case CT-2004-0003961

    Mr. Jaggi had a “cow tag,” and shot a “rag horn buck” in error. While it is commendable that Mr. Jaggi, we should realize that in a low threat situation where the shooter had plenty of time to assess his action, Mr. Jaggi either mis-ID’d his target or missed his target.

    Without anyone shooting back, and without any “life or death” time constraints, Mr Jaggi erred on this day. Yet he believes anyone with a conceal carry permit can safely perform in a high stress, active-shooter situation. I’m sure he considers himself to be an above average, experienced gun owner. I’m sure he would be someone who, under this legislation, could possess a gun in our schools. If he could miss-ID an elk, or miss his target, or have a non-target get in the way, it’s easy to visualize he could miss ID an undercover cop as a target, or miss a target and hit a child.

    This is one of the real concerns for those who oppose the legislation. Mr. Jaggi’s bill, simply, states that anyone with a conceal carry permit will be allowed to enter any public facility and removes the prohibition on entering bars with a weapon. Most responsible gun owners know that alcohol and guns don’t mix well.

    I’m sure there are a few conceal carry permit holders that have the discipline and training this bill should require before we would ever consider allowing guns in bars, schools, or heated political meetings. But my guess is that many permit holders don’t have the discipline or training, and many of them are the ones advocating for the passage of this bill.

    Ken McCauley

    1. Yet another lie being repeated by anti-gunners –

      “removes the prohibition on entering bars with a weapon.” False: HB-114 does not alter existing law that makes it illegal to enter a bar with a weapon.

      The tactic of repeating a lie enough times that the gullible will accept is as fact is a common tactic of tyrants. Wyoming citizens are awake on this issue and won’t fall for such dishonesty.

      Don Wills

      1. My bad … And I didn’t add that statement with any overt dishonesty. The rest of the post is spot on!

        Ken McCauley