Why is Wyoming meddling in New York’s gun laws?

— May 13, 2014

Not content to pass gun laws for its own citizens, the state of Wyoming is attempting to force its will on the people of New York.

Kerry Drake
Kerry Drake

It’s not alone in taking such action this election year. Twenty-one other states have also joined in a “friend of the court” brief opposing a New York law banning certain kinds of semi-automatic weapons. Included in this litigious group of pro-gun states are all of the ones that border Wyoming, except Colorado.

I don’t understand. Wyoming and its conservative neighbors continually preach about states’ rights, and the fundamental premise states should be allowed to make their own decisions about guns within their borders.

Yet here we are telling New York it’s wrong; we and like-minded states know what’s best for the safety of its citizens. Support for the new, more restrictive gun laws don’t have universal support, but polls show 70 percent of New York residents back the law and “feel relieved and more secure.”

Can you imagine the uproar in the Cowboy State if a law with such overwhelming support here was challenged by the state of New York’s attorney general? The poor man would likely be burned in effigy, plus called a few choice names as the torches were lighted.

Wyoming also spearheaded an effort with 18 other states to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to consider their brief on behalf of John M. Drake (no relation to the writer), who was challenging a provision in New Jersey law that says people seeking a concealed-carry permit must prove to police they have a justifiable need.

Not surprisingly, The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, wrote an editorial that told Wyoming to mind its own business. A majority of its citizens support strong gun laws, the paper wrote, and others in the state have already lost similar legal challenges to New Jersey’s concealed-carry law.

“Most New Jerseyans don’t want to have to worry that the guy they’re fighting with over a parking spot might be packing heat,” the editorial stated. “That’s why you need to show justifiable need to carry a handgun here.”

The newspaper pointedly questioned whether people in Wyoming and other states want New Jersey meddling in their gun laws. It said states like Wyoming, with lax gun laws, “actually do threaten our citizens by making it easier for dangerous people to acquire guns and bring them back East.”

The editorial had a final zinger for our state officials. It said Wyoming is among the top states in rates of gun deaths per capita and supplying guns that are used in crimes in other states.

“So the problem isn’t our laws. It’s yours,” the Star-Ledger concluded.

The independent-minded, states’ rights-oriented residents of our state should respect New Jersey’s laws, as we expect the Garden State to respect ours. We live in far different environments, and to suggest that we know what’s best for the people who live there is offensive.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court decided it would not hear Drake’s case, so Wyoming’s attempt to inject itself into New Jersey’s laws went for naught. Meanwhile, even some die-hard gun-rights advocates have acknowledged the lawsuit challenging the New York SAFE Act probably isn’t going to be successful, either.

A federal judge in December upheld most of New York’s new gun control law, rejecting arguments that its bans on large-capacity magazines and the sale of popular semi-automatic rifles violate Second Amendment rights. Those provisions are constitutional, the judge ruled, because they’re related to achieving an “important governmental interest” in public safety. The law was adopted following the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Congress may have been too afraid of the National Rifle Association’s too-powerful lobby to actually do something to help prevent gun violence in our society – in particular mass killings by deranged people – but that threat didn’t stop New York lawmakers from acting. In fact, the SAFE Act, which places new restrictions on selling and buying guns, was passed by a wide bipartisan majority in New York’s two chambers, which are controlled by different parties.

Adam Winkler, UCLA law professor and constitutional expert, told North Country Public Radio in New York even conservative-leaning courts have backed tough gun laws.

“People keep thinking that the Second Amendment means that we’re not going to be able to regulate guns. That’s not the case now and has never been the case,” Winkler said.

So if the New Jersey case is over and the New York one may have the same result, what good has it done Wyoming to meddle where it’s been told to butt out?

It’s an election year, and it may be a cynical view, but signing on to two gun-rights lawsuits is certainly one way to shore up a politician’s support for the Second Amendment – particularly if it’s been questioned in the past.

When he ran for governor in 2010, Matt Mead took a brutal bashing from pro-gun bloggers who ridiculously claimed he was actually an anti-gun candidate.

While the charge never gained any traction beyond some rambling attacks on the Internet, and Mead was elected governor by a landslide, the criticism still seemed to sting him. In a March 2011 interview with WyoFile after the governor signed a bill allowing residents to carry a concealed gun without a permit – which he had been noncommittal about up to that point – Mead said he thought he had been unfairly treated by some gun-rights groups.

Mead had been blasted by several bloggers – especially Anthony Bouchard of the Wyoming Gun Owners Association – because he took the federal government’s side in several cases, including one in which Wyoming had restored the right to own a gun to people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. Of course he did, because he was the U.S. attorney at the time. That was his job.

But Bouchard has also been critical of Mead for not jumping onboard every piece of pro-gun legislation offered in the past three years. The governor dared to question an irresponsible bill that would allow all adults, including volunteers, to carry guns at school. Suggesting that police assigned as campus security should be the only ones armed was enough for gun proponents to charge Mead had betrayed the Second Amendment.

The lesson here for Mead and all Wyoming politicians is that the pro-gun lobby is so rabid, they can be branded as a traitor to the movement if they don’t support every gun bill, no matter how crazy it is. I know many politicians live in fear of being accused of wanting to restrict guns, or not getting an “A” rating from the NRA. But there’s no pleasing everyone who is pro-gun, especially the bunch who can’t forgive the slightest deviation from their extreme right-wing platform.

The excuse that Wyoming’s unwelcome incursion into the gun laws of New York and New Jersey was necessary because their laws could one day impact our residents’ right to keep and bear arms doesn’t hold water, but it effectively bought the governor some cover on the issue and likely scored some political points. But isn’t it time for politicians to stop kowtowing to every unreasonable demand the gun lobby makes? Nobody else is treated with that kind of reverence, and their schtick is really getting old.

— Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake is a contributor to WyoHistory.org. He also moderates the WyPols blog.

— 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.

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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. Excellent Mr. Drake, as usual,,
    But, this is the same old story, ALL of our politicians, Federal, State and Local are bought and paid for by special interest groups, they know no borders, our mantra, “The Equality State” means nothing to Evangelicals, ALEC, NRA, or any of the other multitude of control freaks, we no longer support (by not voting) personal choices, but those made by small factions bent on advancing their own agendas throughout the planet!
    Let us take this article for example, 90% of this nation believed that gun-show background check loopholes should be closed, but the NRA converted this into “the government wants to confiscate all of our guns”, and voila, criminals can still legally (as far as the proprietor knows) purchase a gun at a trade show!
    No matter what “We the People” believe or want, special interest will prevail with a few well placed talking points,,, and money!!

  2. kldimond—have you or anyone else ever heard the words ” well regulated militia” come spewing from Wayne LaPierre’s mouth when addressing the Second amendment ?

    Me neither.

  3. Kerry Drake, you should be ashamed. What a completely, transparently specious argument!

    1. The unfortunate reality is that what gets pushed in NY and CA has a nasty tendency to find its way into “federal law.” After allowing these two disgusting bellwethers to lead the way, it’s definitely time to take the goats by the horns.

    2. Let’s see you screech about Bloomberg and others who support gun lynching, including those who write amici in favor thereof. Crickets? I thought so.

    3. If the states had managed to establish the kind of independence promoted by the states’ rights crowd, you might have half a point besides the one at the top of your head.

    4. Gun rights are now “incorporated.” Always should have been, way I see it. Whereas we have ANYONE militating against gun rights, there is, at least within the country, an obligation to speak up.

    There are quislings like you infesting every outdoorsy state and all outdoors activities, trying to bastardize our arguments and our minds so that even we don’t believe our own arguments…

    Memories: http://newwest.net/main/article/the_zumbo_affair_afterthoughts/

  4. Again I ask, what about that ” well regulated militia” clause in the Second.
    Where is that militia ? Who belongs? Where do I sign up ? Who’s the commander here in Wyoming ? Is it the Wyo National Guard or Army Reserve , because I surely do not see any other group hanging their bandolier on a well regulated militia hook . We don’t have compulsory service like the Swiss, who issue their citizen militia their guns and train them and provide a ration of ammo, and keep them ready to defend the cobblestone and corridors.

    I seek the well regulated militia that is deemed necessary…comma…but is nowhere to be found to be infringed upon. The ” shall not be infringed ” is obviously contingent upon and derivative to the implied ” well regulated militia” that precedes it. WHERE is the Wyoming Militia, or any state’s militia ? ( Freelancers , anarchists, the nonaligned, independents, noncommissioned and nonenlisted , and soldiers of fortune need not apply. The second amendment is not for you if you don;t belong to the well regulated militia

    Then we can discuss that ” well regulated” part. Regulated. Verb. That means regulations. Noun. What kind of working regulations ?

    S0—Where is that well regulated militia, Ye of the Second Amendment apostalate ? Riddle me this. Otherwise, your ‘Absolute Gun Rights All The Time’ argument is so hollow it’s vaccuous.

    I see no absolution in the Second Amendment. Sorry.

  5. Wait a minute, after the last election, didn’t 9000 Wyomingites sign a petition proposing that Wyo leave the US and start its own country? How are we coming along with that project? What a wonderful idea! Save the US a ton of dough in subsidies and the entire state could become an armed encampment, maybe even a state of the art training ground for para military groups, and not have to worry about influencing the idiotic liberal policies in states like New Jersey and New York.

  6. “70 percent of New York residents back the law and ‘feel relieved and more secure.'” I would feel more secure with an “assault weapon” at my disposal, so why aren’t my feelings taken into account? I’m sure at one time 70 percent of southerners were okay with having slaves; does that mean it’s acceptable?

  7. @DeweyV, reading your post I know you know nothing about firearms or even history for the framers of the Constitution would have not known anything about Cap and Ball firearms because they weren’t widely used until the middle of the Civil War in the 1860’s. History lesson Civil War 1861 to 1865. The Constitution approved by congress 1787. I agree with the person who posted that New York doesn’t like other states meddling in their laws, but, they, New York, do not mind meddling in other states laws i.e. Mayors against illegal gun violence, Bloomberg ex-mayor of New York City who love the profiling of minorities, who thought that should be instituted all over the country

  8. Mr. Drake, the mayor of New York dispatched dozens of goons to privately operated gun shows all around the nation with the stated objective of catching dealers and private individuals violating state and federal gun control laws. They caught no one but Bloomberg made a big media splash. If you don’t like the judicial practice of allowing “friend of the court” participation, campaign to have it outlawed. If you don’t like free movement across state lines, campaign to have it outlawed. If not, get over it and move on.

  9. Why is Wyoming meddling in NY gun laws? It only seems fair since NY meddled in neighboring Colorado’s laws and politics.

  10. Why is it that the people who write these articles tell the state of Wyoming stay out of New Jersey and New York gun laws but or more than happy to have the people of Connecticut come down and tell us what we should do with our gun laws.

  11. Actually Drake, NYC is not NY, just because the inhabitants of NYC want gun control, because they are sheep and unwilling to defend themselves, doesn’t mean the rest of the state is too.

    N.Y. CVR. LAW § 4 : NY Code – Section 4: Right to keep and bear arms;

    “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms cannot be infringed.”

    “Cannot be infringed” is stronger words than the US Bill Of Rights “Shall not be infringed”. NYS is in violation of it’s own Bill of Rights under Civil Rights Law Article 2 Section 4.


  12. I’m from NY and WY you can come and join our fight anytime!! Liberty has no borders!!!!! Could you imagine Travis telling Crockett that!! NY gun laws are unconstitutional period.

  13. Just because 70% of New Yorkers agree with the law because they feel safe doesn’t mean they are not morons. I was a cop in NY for almost 30 years and not one gun control law ever passed affects criminals. I am waiting to see a school child jump a school shooter while he is reloading his 7 round magazine (NOT). I can reload in 1.5 seconds. Only law abiding citizens will have 7 rounds, not criminals. How about NY’s elitist politicians pass a law that if a Criminal is caught with and/or uses an illegal handgun they never see daylight again.

  14. It would be laughable , were not the topic so serious…projectile weaponry designed to do one thing: inflict deadly force on another human being. If only the drafters of the Constitution had been a little more specific with the language of their dictums about those crude cap and ball blackpowder rifles and pistols , at a time when nobody moved faster than the horse carrying them , and steampower electricity and flying were utter science fiction.

    Wyoming conservative wags wail incessantly about State’s Rights, and wail more when any other state ( especially the blue states like New York ) try to tell us anything at all around here. But it’s not hypocrisy or gross duplicity for us to tell them how to determine their own laws ?

    Point 2: GENE— before I cede you an inch of turf on the ” …shall not be infringed ” clause of the Second, please give us your wisdom on the clause immediately in front of that : ” A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”.

    Where is that militia ? Does it apply to a State like Wyoming separately , or the collective federal State ?

  15. The previous poster says, “Trying to right the wrongs taking place is the only way we can hope our country can recover.” Recover from what? Hopefully recover, yes, from the highest rate of gun deaths per capita in the world.

  16. Mr. Drake, please feel free to send this article to Mr. Bloomberg in New York, the same Mr. Bloomberg that raised millions for the new gun laws south of the border – a New Yorker telling Coloradoans how to vote for more gun laws.

    It is almost laughable NY/NJ complaining about Wyoming’s involvement in preserving our individual rights as US Citizens. NY/NJ and the surrounding liberal, high tax, high regulation and correspondingly corrupt governments have had more negative impacts on our individual freedoms than any other area of the country. And what do they get for all of their rules, regulations and gun laws? Some of the highest crime rates in the US.

    Mr. Drake, pull off the liberal blinders, get out from in front of the computer, what is happening on the east coast as well as the People’s Republic of California will impact our great state if we do not insert ourselves in blatant disregard for the 2nd Amendment and our individual rights. Your one sided articles are certainly entertaining. Go WYO!

  17. The 2nd Amendment is very clear: “Shall not be infringed”. I guess politicians are attacking all of our constitution as now the first amendment is also under attack by establishing “free speech” zones. Any law infringing on our rights is unconstitutional no matter what the activist judges come up with. Trying to right the wrongs taking place is the only way we can hope our country can recover.