Wyoming gun-rights activists are staring down the barrel of defeat for a bill that would repeal gun-free zones at most public facilities in the state, and they are steamed.

“Liberty in Wyoming is once again under attack,” wrote the Big Horn Basin Tea Party in a public statement last week.

But under Senate File 75 – Repeal gun free zones and preemption amendments, it’s really public safety that’s under attack.

The measure is sponsored by Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne) and is the latest skirmish in his years-long battle to allow anyone with a concealed carry permit to bring their guns to school, college campuses, governmental meetings, sporting events and anyplace else he can think of. About the only publicly funded places where guns would still be banned are courtrooms.

The Tea Party and other conservative groups and individuals are upset because SF75 was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it will likely die. They believe that having 13 of 30 state senators and 23 representatives in the 60-member House signed onto the bill demonstrates widespread support.

What it does not yet have, however, is a majority of state lawmakers in favor of the bill. And judging by the way it is moving through the Senate, one huge roadblock in the form of the Senate Judiciary Committee will stall it.

An attempt by Senate Judiciary Chairman Tara Nethercott (R-Cheyenne) to transfer the bill to the chamber’s Agriculture Committee failed on a 14-16 vote. Three of the votes against the change came from Judiciary Committee members: Sens. Liisa Anselmi-Dalton (D-Rock Springs), R.J. Kost (R-Powell) and Michael Von Flatern (R-Gillette) — a majority of the 5-member committee.

The Big Horn Basin Tea Party cast shame on three other GOP “senators from the Big Horn Basin” who voted against switching committees, noting that if two had voted differently the bill would undoubtedly move to the full Senate.

I think the public owes a debt of gratitude to the trio: Kost and Sens. Cale Case (who represents Senate District 25 in Fremont County, not the Big Horn Basin) and Hank Coe (R-Cody). It should be noted that Case is a co-sponsor of SF75.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled its hearing of the bill for Wednesday at 8 a.m.

Myriad common-sense reasons exist to kill this bill. This isn’t a Second Amendment issue, as proponents claim. It’s a safety issue.

Do we really want anyone to possess guns at sporting events where alcohol is consumed and tempers can flare? Are people who have concealed carry permits so super-human that they are immune to anger, and so masterfully trained in the use of firearms that they are guaranteed not to discharge a weapon either accidentally or on purpose?

Of course not. It’s not difficult to imagine many situations where there could be a volatile confrontation at a school, college or city council meeting that could end in someone getting injured or killed. People get mad, but if they don’t have a gun on them, there is zero chance they will shoot anyone.

Backers of SF75 seem to be trying to get revenge against both the University of Wyoming for banning guns at the Republican State Convention on campus last year and the courts for upholding the institution’s decision.

GOP delegate Lyle Williams of Uinta County sued UW, but in Albany County, District Court Judge Tori Kricken ruled that the law authorizes the university to regulate firearms on campus.

Bouchard had a well-publicized dust-up with UW when he threatened to cut off all funding for its English Department because he objected to what he perceived as an anti-gun skit in which an unarmed black student was shot.

So let’s call SF75 what it is: a state senator’s temper tantrum in the guise of protecting Second Amendment rights.

The most objectionable element of Bouchard’s bill is that it takes all decisions about the “sale, transfer, purchase, delivery, taxation, manufacture, ownership, transportation, storage, use and possessions of firearms, weapons and ammunition” away from local authorities and puts it under the Legislature’s control.

Not all Republicans support SF75, but it is a GOP-backed bill in the sense that no Democrats have signed onto it. Local control is supposed to be one of the foundations of Republican philosophy.

Take a look at a video on the state party’s website and you’ll hear comments stating that philosophy plainly.

“Local control is really where the hard work and the good work gets done,” says State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.

Dicky Shanor, a prominent figure in the Laramie County GOP, paraphrases Thomas Jefferson in the same video,“The government that governs closest to the people governs best.”

So why is local control being totally usurped in this proposed legislation?

Why are people like the members of the Big Horn Basin Tea Party trying to shame Republicans for not supporting a measure so inherently at odds with the principle of local control? Western conservatives constantly complain about “federal overreach.” This is a prime example of state overreach.

The Casper City Council banned guns at its meetings in 2011. Bouchard, who was the director of the Wyoming Gun Owners organization but not yet a state senator, had shown up openly carrying a gun in his holster to testify against the proposed rule.

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I still believe that the image of Bouchard’s ridiculous intimidation stunt appearing on the front page of the next day’s Casper Star-Tribune led to widespread support of the council’s action. The council reaffirmed its position in 2016, when then-Mayor Daniel Sandoval said that allowing guns at meetings could inhibit free speech and make attendees feel unsafe.

When the issue came up again last year, City Councilman Mike Huber, a former judge, said the council “has an obligation to provide a safe environment for everyone who comes in here, and I can tell you over the years I have attended a lot of courthouse security training sessions … the worst thing you can have to make things unsafe for everybody in here is firearms.”

Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr, a conservative Republican, told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle that she personally would have no problem if the Cheyenne City Council decided to allow firearms at meetings. But she opposes SF75 because it’s a clear infringement of local control.

“I think it should be up to the locals to come up with what works best for their cities when it comes to Second Amendment rights,” she told the newspaper.

Councilman Pete Laybourn noted that their meetings are attended by a Cheyenne police officer in charge of keeping the peace.

“We already have ‘a good guy with a gun’ at our meetings,” said Laybourn.

Which begs the question, why do Bouchard and other members of the GOP — which traditionally characterizes itself as the “law-and-order” party — only feel safe if they’re the ones walking around packing heat? Isn’t the presence of law enforcement enough to convince them that they don’t have to stroll up to a podium at a council meeting wearing a gun?

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. “Local control is supposed to be one of the foundations of Republican philosophy.” This statement is used out of context. The Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jillian Balow, was talking about education, not our constitutional rights to own and bear arms. If one checks the Wyoming GOP Platform you will see support for the Second Amendment. Local control is not mentioned in the Platform. More Fake News.
    https://www.wyoming.gop/wyoming_republican_party_platform

  2. Senate File 75 was introduced to the senate and referred to the Judiciary Committee. That committee is typically known for not being a liberty minded committee. The bill’s sponsor Senator Bouchard tried to have the bill moved to the Ag Committee, a more conservative committee. However, that vote, taken on the senate floor failed. Thus, the bill was stuck in the Judiciary Committee. On January 23rd that committee voted and recommended for “Do not pass”. The vote was 2 yea – 3 nay. The three nays were given by Senators Kost (R) Park and Big Horn Counties, Von Flatern (R) Campbell County and Liisa Anselmi-Dalton (D) Sweetwater County.

    Kost has stated, “I strongly feel this is a local issue and state government should not overreach to dictate how each local area should operate. For those reasons I am not in favor of this bill and will not support it”.

    This has nothing to do with feelings! It’s about our constitutional rights!

    His Oath of Office states, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the state of Wyoming; that I have not knowingly violated any law related to my election or appointment, or caused it to be done by others; and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity.” There is nothing about feelings in this Oath.

    What Kost fails to understand is the US Constitution states in the 2nd Amendment, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Wyoming Constitution states, “The right of citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and of the state shall not be denied.”

    What these three senators have done, by their dissention, is to prevent the repeal of unconstitutional gun free zones and opened the door on local governments to implement more firearm restrictions. If enacted, this repeal would have prevented local governments from infringing upon the Rights of lawful citizens.
    Quite frankly, let’s face it, criminals do not abide by the laws of a civilized society. Now, these senators have created a scenario where law abiding citizens could potentially face more “gun free zones” making them more susceptible to being harmed or having to choose whether to obey the law or risk prosecution themselves.

    There is still hope! There is a bill in the House, HB183 which does the same as SF75. However, Speaker Harshman has not let it go to a committee, yet! Contact all your legislators and tell them, not ask, to “Repeal Gun Free Zones.”

    Just like Permitless Concealed Carry, Stand Your Ground, and Armed Teachers and Staff legislation it is incumbent upon all constitutionally minded Wyomingites to contact their legislators to demand a “Repeal of Gun Free Zones.” If passed Governor Gordon has stated, he will sign the legislation into law.

    1. Let me remind you that the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution also states that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, and yet we abridge speech in a number of ways. We certainly will infringe upon the right of a citizen’s speech when it is used to plan a crime. Why do we infringe on that right? We infringe on the right because of the possible harm it might cause. The same logic applies to the Second Amendment right to bear arms–it can be infringed if possible harm is foreseen in a reasonable way.

      You can’t use one logic for one part of the Constitution and not another! Which leads me to wonder if you think we shouldn’t infringe on the rights of citizens to plot terror and crimes.

    2. Readers should know that Vince Vanata here is both a strident vocal spokesperson for the Big Horn Basin Tea Party chapter and a Republican party committee apparatchik. Two forks of the tongue.
      Knowing that , read back thru his zealous comments here, twice. You will hear in no uncertain terms why Kerry Drake is absolutely spot on about gun safety vs. a wholly misguided belief that giun rights are somehow absolute. They are not. That delusional dogma bellowed by the likes of Vanata but moreso the NRA is the greater part of the sum of problems with gun violence alla cross America, including Wyoming. Absolutism has no place here, especially when it overrides the greater good, subverts public safety, and replaces altruism with the worst unmitigated outbreak of anarchy allowed to exist: that guns are sacred. Nothing could be more wrong, until you get into the realm of uncontroled nuclear weapons…

      Gun rights …aren’t.

      Kerry 1 Vanata- below zero

      1. I will remind Mr. Vanata that the Wyoming Constitution cannot go above and beyond the federal Constitution but must remain subordinate. Not being from Wyoming initially , perhaps Vanata does not know there have been several occasions in Wyoming history where city and town councils enacted outright gun bans. before and after statehood. Local control cuts both ways.

        Start here, Vinnie : https://www.wyofile.com/historic-perspective-on-gun-control-in-wyoming-2/

    3. Hello Vincent,

      You seem well read, so you should understand that the 2A was designed to overthrow a government that no longer obeys the Constitution. The Supreme Court held out in Heller that states have the absolute right to limit where guns maybe present and whom may have access to them. It is for certain that the University of Wyoming and the K-12 schools are not a hot bed of rebellion, so why do you want to go guns up in those locations?

      If you say that white males are more likely to cause deaths to the their classmates or others and you are trying to protect other students then there are much better ways to attack that problem.

      FYI all crime including violent crime has receded in the past 30 years, so the whole idea is a solution in search of a non existent problem. Besides why inflame a bunch of nutters that want to come to UW and march around with guns? What purpose does it serve? Feeding ego is all I can tell, because this law does nothing to enrich the understanding of the 2A or better protect our Citizens.

  3. There are good and bad outcomes with or without the law. I dislike the idea of hundreds of different state and local regulations for guns. The last thing I want to do is be a gun-law expert when I travel around the state or out of it. The idea that local control is always the best idea has been proven wrong time and time again. For many things it is, but for many things it is not. I would guess that MOST gun owners don’t care if they can’t carry in school or courtroom. For me, it’s more for convenience than safety to have one broad policy instead of a hundred different targeted local ones.

    “Wyoming Republican U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso are supporting proposed legislation that would allow individuals with concealed carry permits in their home state to exercise those rights in any other state with concealed carry laws, while abiding by that state’s laws.” https://www.apnews.com/3b07c63a14344411ba68007e4b4199e1

    I hope that passes but it’s probably posturing for political gain and has no real chance of success.

  4. Mr. Hill addresses ‘allowing trained and certified concealed carry permit holders the ability to excersize (sic) their enumerated right to carry a concealed firearm’. One problem with that:: Wyoming residents can carry a firearm either concealed or open, with no permit required. So much for ‘trained and certified’.

    Thank you, Kerry. Good job as always.

  5. This bill is not only about allowing trained and certified concealed carry permit holders the ability to excersize their enumerated right to carry a CONCEALED Firearm.

    It addresses local communities adopting ordinances that clearly overwrite State Statute. This would be akin to a local community changing the speed limit on a State Highway that crosses through their town from 30mph to 50mph.

    Clearly Drake has chosen cherrypick comments by others to fit his agenda.

  6. Drake prefers successful mass shootings to the possibility that some good person in the crowd might prevent one. Prohibiting GOOD people from having guns increases the likelihood of a mass shooting at that particular location by providing a government guaranteed criminal safe zone, thus assuring the shooter that he will be able to run up a high score before cops arrive.

    1. Mr. Collins refers to a “government guaranteed criminal safe zone.” He then intones the mantra, the more guns, the safer you feel. This is based on what, looking at every other developed nation’s statistics on gun violence? No, sorry, that’s way off-topic. It is ever amazing to me how many people will open up and swallow the NRA’s propaganda whole. It is the toxic tonic that makes people vote for Matt Dillon’s crazy uncle (R) over and over again. If the state starts dictating which public institutions allow ‘do-gooders’ to show up packin’ heat- well, blood on their hands when things go awry. Because do-gooders are not trained assassins; they are human beings, just as likely as the rest of us to misjudge a situation, lose their tempers, or allow personal assumptions to take over. This bill is just plain madness.

      1. Wendy, is that what happened when Wyoming began allowing concealed carry a few years ago without a permit? Is it what happened when Congress opened the National Parks to concealed carry and having loaded guns in cars? Your argument is begging for data to back it up. On the other hand, if YOU were in a place that was being shot up by a madman you’d be wishing you had a gun. At least I hope you’d have that kind of common sense.