If you’re concerned the far right wing of the state Republican Party has been a little too quiet during the first week of the Wyoming Legislature, and wonder what it’s up to, don’t worry.

Judging by the bills its members began introducing late last week, it’s probably just pacing itself. There will be plenty of time to waste debating its crazy ideas, so buckle up and get ready for another session in search of protecting “freedoms” that are already well-protected and castigating the federal government and progressives for just about everything.

Usually, moderates in both parties manage to keep the extreme right from doing much damage, and ultra-conservative House members don’t get much of their agenda approved. They do get a lot of ink, airtime and Internet attention to please their base, which is what they seem to crave most.

Still, it’s good to keep an eye on them, so none of their efforts slip by unnoticed. Do it for the sake of democracy and the sanity of our state. If nothing else, it often provides a lot of entertainment.

There’s always at least one measure aimed at allowing citizens to carry weapons where they don’t belong, usually at schools. House Bill 114 is called the “Wyoming Repeal Gun Free Zones Act,” which is pretty well summed up in the title.

This bill adds a new wrinkle, likely in response to complaints by opponents that lawmakers never try to end the ban on concealed weapons in the Capitol Building.

Sponsored by Rep. Allen Jaggi (R-Lyman), HB 114 would allow concealed carry at any meeting of a “governmental entity,” including the Legislature and its committees. It also removes current restrictions on guns at:

— Any public school, college or professional athletic event, whether or not related to firearms.

— Any public elementary or secondary school facility.

— Any public college or university facility without the written consent of the security service of the college or university.

The bill does at least maintain the ban on weapons in court. Perhaps news accounts of people attempting to extract their own brand of justice in court if things don’t go their way has persuaded its sponsor to keep people from packing heat in courtrooms.

But haven’t the backers of HB 114 learned anything after the Sandy Hook tragedy, where 20 students and six teachers were gunned down, and the seemingly weekly occurrences of gun violence on school campuses? It is appalling that no matter what happens in our society, it’s apparently never horrific enough to keep the far right from pushing the idea that somehow our Second Amendment rights are being trampled by efforts to make students safe. This is madness.

We’ll no doubt hear from legislators who maintain if more workers, volunteers and visitors were carrying weapons, they could thwart any gunman’s actions. More likely they’ll just wound or kill those caught in the crossfire.

Two bills have been filed in response to a federal court lifting the ban on same-sex marriage in Wyoming last year. HB 26, the “Solemnization of Marriage Act,” sponsored by Rep. Eric Barlow (R-Gillette), would keep religious officials from having to perform marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.

HB 83, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (you’ve got to appreciate some of these creative names that hide what the bill really does) would allow government officials to not issue a marriage license to same-sex couples. It’s sponsored by Rep. Nathan Winters (R-Thermopolis), a Baptist pastor who wants to allow officials to not participate in an action that is “substantially motivated by sincerely held religious belief, whether or not compelled by or central to a system of religious belief.”

Let’s amend that to require anyone who withholds a marriage license to take a lie detector test to determine if his or her action is based on a sincere religious belief or everyday bigotry.

HB 89, the “Wyoming Legal Tender Act,” is sponsored by Rep. Kendell Kroeker (R-Casper), who may have watched one too many of those TV commercials that try to convince viewers to exchange all of their currency for gold or silver. People who do so would not be subject to any taxes for the switch.

Kroeker has a few more ideas from the far right up his sleeve. HB 90 would allow students to express their religious beliefs in public schools. Only one problem: The Constitution already does that, which is why the Legislature killed a similar measure at last year’s budget session.

Kroeker’s HB 91, the “Restoring Constitutional Governance Act,” prohibits the enforcement of certain federal laws, and also makes a “legislative declaration that Wyoming is not a battlefield.” I love that line; it’s my favorite of the session so far. I’d dare someone to top it, but then they probably would try. How about a bill that declares victory against the enemy in the “War on Christmas?”

No, on second thought, that would make the entire state a battlefield, and if HB 91 passes, we’d all be in a lot of trouble. The bill would prohibit the arrest, capture or use of deadly force against anyone in Wyoming “under the law of war,” or “intentionally subject any citizen of Wyoming for targeted killing or murder.”

In terms of sheer paranoia, nothing matches HB 94, sponsored by Rep. Mark Jennings, (R-Sheridan). It makes it a fundamental right for parents to “direct the upbringing, education and care of a child.” I feel bad this one doesn’t have a catchy name. How about the “Freedom for Parents to Raise Their Kids Any Darn Way They Please Act?”

Let’s not forget joint resolutions, which don’t have the force of law, but are an excellent way for lawmakers to make meaningless political statements that waste everyone’s time. HJ 1, sponsored by Winters, asks Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to authorize congressional votes to approve or disapprove proposed federal regulations.

HJ 4, sponsored by Rep. Tyler Lindholm (R-Sundance), is a traditional favorite of the right wing. It petitions Congress to call a constitutional convention to require a balanced federal budget.

Finally, Senate Joint Resolution 4 is a catch-all to correct all of the alleged “federal overreach” actions Wyoming politicians perennially complain about. Sponsored by Sen. Ray Peterson (R-Cowley) and Winters in the House, it requests another constitutional convention. As these things go, it’s a rhetorical wonder.

SJ 4 states the founders of the Constitution empowered state legislators to be “guardians of liberty against future abuses of power by the federal government.” It notes the federal government “has created a crushing national debt through improper and imprudent spending.”

It claims the federal government “has invaded the legitimate roles of the states through the manipulative process of federal mandates, most of which are unfunded.” Finally, the federal government has “ceased to live under a proper interpretation of the Constitution of the United States.”

To sum up: “Bad federal government. Bad!”

In fiscal year 2013, according to Ballotpedia, Wyoming state government spent $2.3 billion in federal funds. I don’t know why what’s so obvious to the far right seems to escape the rest of us: If we just told the feds to go away and quit meddling in our affairs, our state legislators could complete their work and still have about 360 days of the year to ponder what else to do.

— 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.

Kerry Drake

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. Mr Drake would you care to show me some statistical evidence that shows that gun free zones are in fact safer than areas where law abiding citizens carry firearms? Apparently each mass shooting has failed to show you that gun free zones are ineffective.

    I’m a big supporter of marriage equality. Consenting adults should be free to marry as they wish. At the same time however government should not be permitted to force a clergy member to perform a ceremony that the individual does not agree with. Government has no business being involved in marriage or religion in any way. Doing away with state sanctioned marriage permits should be a win win for both the far right and the far left.

    As for HB 94, it does not grant a fundamental right to parents to raise their children, it merely recognizes the preexisting fundamental right that parents have always had.

    If you wish to live in a totalitarian utopia then by all means feel free to do so, all we ask is that you leave the rest of us alone. There are plenty of wonderful places around this country which already meet your apparent criteria, why not move to one of those locales rather than trying to corrupt our state?

    Andrew Michaud
    Greybull, WY

  2. A few years ago, when Wyoming was considering allowing anyone to carry concealed without a permit, gun haters like Mr. Drake told us “blood would run in the streets.” The law passed and nothing changed. When Congress forced the National Park Service to allow permitted carriers to carry in National Parks the same tired predictions were made. Nothing changed. The school vulnerability issue is real. Laws that prevent good people from having guns in schools pave the way for madmen to commit massacres. What logical society has ever herded all its children into a single building and then proclaimed to the world that they are completely defenseless?

    Keith Collins
    Cody, WY

  3. Important points about HB114 were left out by Mr. Drake.

    1. For the current Wyoming gun-free zones (schools and the capitol), HB-114 will only allow concealed carry with a concealed carry permit. No open carry will be allowed.

    2. Utah has allowed concealed carry in schools and the state capitol building for the last 15 years with good results.

    3. Many states including Utah and Idaho allow open and concealed carry in their capitol building. Why should the Wyoming capitol building be treated any differently from county buildings? Are state legislators and Mr. Mead any more important than county clerks?

    4. The line of thinking expressed by Mr. Drake that gun-free zones are going to stop deranged killers like the Sandy Hook nutcase is totally flawed. It’s the **lack** of armed good guys that’s the problem, not their existence. Compare Utah to Sandy Hook which took place in a gun-free zone that had a high tech security system that required positive id at the front door and a buzz-in to enter. The bad guy just shot out the security system and walked in and started shooting defenseless adults and students.

    Anti-gunners would have you believe that gun-free zones stop bad guys from doing bad things. That’s ridiculous. The only thing gun-free zones do is stop law-abiding citizens from carrying weapons to defend themselves, not the bad guys.

    Name calling (e.g. “the far right wing of the state Republican Party”) is a time honored tradition when an argument is weak. That’s the case for folks like Mr. Drake who oppose HB-114.

    Don Wills
    Pine Bluffs, WY