Uinta County Republican Party Chairman Karl Allred wears a holstered pistol while voicing his opposition to tax increases in front of the Joint Revenue Committee meeting on May 2 in Lander. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

LANDER — A Republican party official wearing a holstered firearm at a legislative committee hearing sparked an exchange with Senate Revenue Committee Chairman Cale Case (R-Lander), though the party official said the discussion was a ‘joking’ one. 

Uinta County Republican Party Chairman Karl Allred approached the Joint Revenue Committee at its meeting in Lander on Thursday to express his displeasure at a corporate income tax proposal. Before taking his seat at the table reserved for those addressing the lawmakers, he adjusted his belt and the holstered pistol on his hip.

Allred spoke for approximately 10 minutes. He voiced his opposition to most tax increases, and accused lawmakers of using a proposed corporate income tax as a vehicle to stealthily impose an income tax on all Wyoming residents. Committee members said that reading of the bill was, in fact, Allred misunderstanding the way bills are drafted by the legislative attorneys.

At the conclusion of his testimony, Case asked Allred about the pistol.

“Mr. Allred I can’t help but notice that you’re open-carrying and I support open carry,” he said. “This is private property and I was wondering if you cleared it with the owners of this facility?”

Open carry is the practice of visibly carrying a pistol in a holster or a long firearm on a sling.

The meeting was at the Inn at Lander, a hotel on the southern edge of town that Case later said he owns.

Allred had not, he said. “I’ve been here many times and I’ve never had a problem with that and it’s not posted ‘no guns,’” he said. The hotel also had “public access,” Allred said.

“I think it’d be better if you checked with the owner,” Case said. “That happens to be me. I don’t intend to deny it but I think it’s good policy if you’re going to open-carry in a private business to talk to the business.”

“I’ll be sure to give you a call next time I come up,” Allred replied.

Within his rights…

Allred is certain he was within his rights to open-carry the firearm at the meeting, he told WyoFile in an interview. State statute forbids carrying a concealed weapon at government meetings. It does not address open carry.

There was no particular reason Allred went armed to a meeting of the Revenue Committee, he said. “It’s just the normal course of business,” he said.

Allred wears a holstered firearm openly into meetings all the time, he said. He’s also done so around Wyoming governors, as well as Republican U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, he said. “That’s one of the great things about Wyoming,” he said.

Allred characterized the exchange with Case as “just kind of a personal joke,” between the two men, and said he has often open-carried at meetings Case has attended.

He did not know Case owned the Inn at Lander before Thursday’s meeting, he said. Despite his neglect in this instance, Allred said “it’s good policy if you know the owner and just say ‘hey you don’t mind, do you?’”

For his part, Case said he supports the right to carry though he finds a firearm  “unnecessary.” He asked Allred about the pistol to put the other meeting attendees at ease, he said. Case does not charge the Legislature for using meeting space in the hotel he is a part owner of, he said.

“I thought about just ignoring it, which if it was a different venue, I would,” he said. “But it was my own venue. I know people are nervous about guns … but the Constitution is also important.

“I knew it would be a polite exchange and it would put people at ease about it,” Case said.

Wyoming does not have a statute prohibiting open carry of firearms in the Capitol Building or other government offices, but there are administrative rules preventing “dangerous weapons” from being brought inside. Those rules come from the State Building Commission, which sets rules for buildings that are “under the control of state government.”

In the Jonah Business Center where the Legislature has conducted its business for the last several years, firearms are banned by signs on the doors leading into the building.

The Jonah Business Center is a private building leased by the state government, and the State Building Commission sets rules for the areas in use by the Legislature and its staff.

Nineteen states have laws regulating the presence of firearms in state capitols or other state government buildings, according to the gun control organization Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Some of those allow open carry but prohibit concealed weapons. Others, like neighboring Colorado, allow concealed weapons in the statehouse, but not open carry.

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Allred has been involved in efforts to further loosen Wyoming’s gun regulations. He played a role last spring when conservatives deliberately violated University of Wyoming policy by open-carrying at the Wyoming Republican Party convention on campus.

The defiance drew a citation from campus police and then a legal challenge from conservatives, which is now before the Wyoming Supreme Court. Gun advocates are also trying to roll back what few firearms restrictions there are in Wyoming law, with senators recently proposing, but failing, to repeal gun-free zone laws.

Andrew Graham

Andrew Graham is reporting for WyoFile from Laramie. He covers state government, energy and the economy. Reach him at 443-848-8756 or at andrew@wyofile.com, follow him @AndrewGraham88

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14 Comments

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  1. And, did Mr Case use the meeting accommodations as a tax write off? I would have!

  2. Having had time to mull this over some and learn more about the Revenue committee meeting, I have to say, this story is a bit disappointing. The fixation on the guy with a gun by Wyoming’s news outlets is pretty misguided to me. A passionate, right-wing weirdo open-carrying a firearm to a public meeting in Wyoming [without incident] isn’t anything new or all that interesting.
    However, Cale Case’s massive conflict of interest absolutely is interesting and important to highlight and discuss. So here goes:

    Case, the Chairman of the Revenue committee, running legislative committee meetings out of his own place of business, is not ethical. Case not charging the state for use of the meeting space is not enough to clear him of unethical self-dealing.
    Sure he ‘gives up’ maybe a few hundred dollars for offering the ‘free’ space. But what might he get in return for holding the committee meeting there? Well, quite a lot actually. He probably recouped in profits at least that amount and likely more as a direct result of holding the meeting at his own hotel.

    Case’s business gets free publicity, an increase in traffic by meeting attendees (including legislators, other public officials from around the state, various stakeholders and members of the public generally) and with that increase in traffic, a very likely increase in sales at the hotel which has a bar, a restaurant and a gift shop as well as lodging accommodations. Who knows, maybe he even ‘bumped up’ room rates to coincide with the meeting in anticipation of attendees staying at his hotel? The opportunity was certainly there.

    The committee meeting spanned two days, and included a few 15-minute breaks and an hour lunch break on the first day. You can bet that attendees were buying bottled water, coffee, snacks, lunch, etc. at the restaurant and gift shop, possibly drinks at the bar, etc. during those breaks. On top of that, only one legislator on that committee is actually from Lander, (Cale Case) meaning that it is very likely that many members of the committee stayed at least one night in Lander to attend the meeting, a cost (along with travel and food) which is largely reimbursed by the state. I would suspect that many if not most of those legislators who stayed the night, stayed in Case’s hotel, where the meeting was being held.

    That doesn’t even count the other elected officials and stakeholders who attended the meeting that may have stayed and eaten at the hotel while attending the committee meeting. The Park County assessor was in attendance, for example. I believe there were also some from the University of Wyoming as well as some from school districts from around the state who attended the committee meeting as part of their jobs.
    Case may have ‘donated’ the space, but the amount of potential and likely benefits he got in return for that ‘donation’ likely exceeds the amount he would normally charge for use of the space. Considering that he seems to have directed these benefits toward his own hotel is DEFINITELY a conflict of interest, and highly unethical. This isn’t the only point of contention about Case’s unethical conflict of interest in regards to this particular meeting.

    When the discussion about the lodging tax came up in the committee meeting, Case declared to have a conflict of interest (because he owns a hotel, not-so-coincidentally the very hotel in which the meeting was taking place) and said he would abstain from voting on the issue. Great.
    BUT he then proceeded to simply try to change hats in the middle of the meeting and to continue on and use his platform as a legislator and the chairman of the committee, from the Chairman’s literal and figurative seat at the head of the committee to “speak as a private citizen” about how awful and terrible the tax is and would be and how much he opposes it and everyone should be against it and shoot it down, etc. etc.

    Yes, he has the right to opine about the tax as a private citizen, but when he has declared a conflict of interest and is acting in his capacity as chairman and facilitating the meeting, he isn’t nor can he just simply act as a ‘private citizen’ on a whim. The Chairman has sole authority to enforce decorum rules and maintain committee order, meaning he has an absolute out-sized say and platform in a committee meeting that he is running than any private citizen or even other legislators in the meeting could ever have.

    It appears that Case isn’t ACTUALLY interested in avoiding conflict of interest. He is only interested in PRETENDING that he is avoiding the conflict, while trying to quietly reap the conflict’s rewards under the table.

    He should not be using his position in the legislature to make decisions like this that could and likely do benefit him financially. There are other spaces in Lander that could accommodate these types of meetings. Even if it cost the state a few extra hundred dollars (I’d be surprised if it is even that much, honestly), I’d say that is still a better alternative than a State legislator using his position and platform to artificially and purposefully direct state money and business toward himself, unduly keeping it from his business competitors and even the Lander community at-large.

    This is wrong and unethical. Period.

  3. I have lost respect for Cale Case. What he did to Mr. Allred was unnecessary and accomplished nothing. I used to like Case, but he’s out of line on this.

  4. Here’s my standard retort to those who fervantly believe the Second Amendment decrees absolute gun rights everywhere all the time , and occasionally feel the need to do Show and Tell or have a projectile weaponry pageant.

    Read the 9th Amendment in the Bill of Rights . The one that addresses rights that are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution are nevertheless retained by people. It’s the only lexicon that even begins to address what the Founders might have frameworked about big scary things like nuclear weapons or biogenetics on the large end of the future history scale.

    I’m supposing with respect to Open Carry , brandishing a gun to make a political statement could also be perceived by some ( me) as the Right to be Stupid ; the Right to be Obnoxious ; the Right to Hubris; the right to make the rest of us in the room feel very uncomfortable or even threatened by that one guy who is so insecure or lacking self-esteem he has to pack heat everywhere all the time .

    1. Branishing?….it was on his hip and holstered. You have the right to be scared of a gun,the boogeyman,clowns and Dolly Parton for all I care,but read a dictionary and learn a few definitions before running your lips and showing your lack of esteem and basic education.

  5. It is a conflict of interest to be holding interim committee meetings at Cale’s place of business

    1. There is no such official thing as Conflict of Interest in Wtoming, only an interest in conflict …

    2. How in the world is it a conflict of interest for the Senator to donate his own business space for legislative meetings? Try saying thank you.

    1. I actually think he handled it well. I don’t care much for Case, and I’m also not overly fond of people deliberately displaying their firearms in legislative meetings as a means to ‘amplify’ their points about their political views, but Case did good.

      A man showed up with a publicly visible firearm to express passionate opposition to a legislative issue. Not everybody knows him or his intentions. That’s enough to make many people nervous, especially in a somewhat adversarial setting like a legislative meeting about a fairly contentious issue. Case addressed it lightly and politely. showed the man was just doing his thing with no ill-motive. Tension was relieved with no further incident or interaction about it. That’s it. No incident, no kerfuffle, no nothing. That is good.

      Case, the Chairman of the Revenue committee, Running legislative committee meetings out of his own place of business however, is something that caused me to raise my eyebrows. Him not charging the State for use of the space isn’t necessarily enough for that to not still be unethical self-dealing.
      Free publicity, possible increase in traffic and an increase in sales (Like at the bar, restaurant, gift shop, room and board for legislators likely paid for by the state, etc.)

      That definitely seems like an inappropriate conflict of interest. He should not be using his position in the legislature to make decisions like this that could and likely do benefit him financially. There are other spaces in Lander that could accommodate these types of meetings.