The Drake's Take

Can Wyoming talk about gun regulations now?

— January 7, 2014

Kerry Drake
Kerry Drake

Imagine what Wyoming would be like if state leaders and business development officials spent as much time, energy and money recruiting safe, renewable energy manufacturers as they did courting a disenchanted gun factory to move here.

I know it’s only a liberal’s dream, but humor me for a few paragraphs.

You might open up your paper and see a story like this:

CHEYENNE – Wyoming’s governor and state legislators today welcomed SunGlory, a solar panel manufacturer it stole from California, the green capital of the nation.

SunGlory’s president and CEO said he was happy with California’s solar regulations, but Wyoming leaders made too good of a case for him to stay in the Golden State when Cheyenne beckoned.

We feel it’s a perfect fit,” said the businessman, wearing a cowboy hat that had just been presented to him by the capital city’s mayor. “Did you know that Cheyenne has 236 days of sunshine a year?”

The governor stepped up to the microphone. “As a matter of fact, I do know that,” he said, grinning. “That’s one of the reasons we competed so hard against almost every state in the country to get you here. We’re the nation’s energy capital, so we should be the leader in solar manufacturing.

“You think just like us,” the governor told the executive. “And we appreciate the fact that you’re moving your corporate headquarters here as well. You’ll be a big fish in our big energy pond.”

No, that will never happen, but why can’t Wyoming recruit other manufacturers with the same intensity it did to land Magpul, which pulled its factory out of Colorado when legislators there passed a few gun laws?

Wyoming officials weren’t the only ones who drooled over the possibility of adding Magpul’s 200-plus jobs to the local economy. Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Montana and South Dakota were among the states that announced they wanted Magpul after the company threatened to leave the state if Democratic Colorado legislators passed a so-called “anti-gun” bill package.

Chief among Magpul’s objections was Colorado’s audacity to restrict ammunition magazines – a product the company sells – to only 15 rounds.

It didn’t seem to matter that Colorado passed the law in response to several mass killings – including one in an Aurora, Colo., theater and another at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut – in which innocent moviegoers, students and teachers were gunned down by psychotics. In fact, the shooter in the Sandy Hook killings used 30-round mags manufactured by Magpul in Colorado. At some point, when the killer ammo comes from Magpul, it will be noted that it was made in Wyoming.

Yes, I know that if someone is crazy enough to go on a killing rampage, the shooter will obtain the guns and ammo some way and carry out his heinous plans. But why on earth should our government make it easier for them to access magazines loaded with 30 or more bullets? How many shots do law-abiding, safety-conscious gun owners need to defend themselves? These high-capacity clips certainly aren’t used for hunting; their purpose is to kill humans.

In the wake of Sandy Hook, President Barack Obama passionately talked about the need to pass some reasonable restrictions on assault weapons and ammunition. Polls showed national support for such laws. Congress, bowing to the National Rifle Association and other lobbyists for the gun industry, refused to pass a single bill.

When that kind of congressional cowardice happens, it becomes the duty of state legislators to work on legislation to keep their constituents safe. The bills that stirred up so much criticism for supposedly being anti-Second Amendment were passed by the normal legislative process and signed into law by Colorado’s governor. Gun rights advocates, though, were so incensed they launched successful recall efforts against two Democratic solons who were instrumental in passing these laws.

Such recalls are within the rights of all citizens if they disagree with legislative decisions. Magpul also had the right to threaten to pull out of Erie, Colo., if it believed gun restrictions being debated will hurt its business.

But it strikes me as odd that other states wouldn’t see the company’s bold threat to the Colorado Legislature as an extreme power play that could also be used against them if they were to anger its owner. If a company is willing to pull up stakes and move its factory to Wyoming and its headquarters to Texas over a dispute instead of lobbying for a compromise, what’s to keep it from holding its breath (remember that corporations are people too) and turning blue if it doesn’t get its way in Wyoming?

Instead of showing any sign of wariness, Cheyenne and Wyoming welcomed the company with open arms and plan to hand it millions of dollars in incentives to move to Cheyenne. That includes the city’s economic development agency, Cheyenne LEADS, asking the Wyoming Business Council for an $8 million grant and a $5 million loan to construct a manufacturing facility it will then lease to Magpul. LEADS is also committing several million dollars to the project.

I know this is Wyoming, a state so anxious to please the minerals industry that it allows lobbyists to write some of the laws that regulate it. Much of this activity has been hidden in recent years, though, after the Legislature passed a law that says the public can’t look at their emails and other correspondence that involves drafting legislation. To a lesser extent, agriculture has the same type of powerful influence on legislators.

Do we really need another industry that we’re just going to tell “come on in – how can we serve you?” Effectively, that’s what we told the gun lobby when Gov. Matt Mead stressed upon Magpul’s arrival that Wyoming “has a firm commitment to uphold the Second Amendment.” Gun manufacturers know that the state doesn’t pass gun restrictions, but do we have to take everything off the table just to get more jobs here? Isn’t there even a slight possibility that a legislator could draft a bill that puts in place some common-sense limits on weapons that the public would back?

No, instead we’ve chosen to elect officials who now have another reason to make every gun control bill dead on arrival – we can’t tick off an entire industry, can we?

Actually, it’s possible that state lawmakers may become completely superfluous to the issue of gun laws, so the industry doesn’t even have to pretend to care what they think. The Colorado Legislature is planning to consider a bill that would give only voters the right to make decisions on any proposed changes to gun laws. How long do you think it will take for that idea to travel to the Capitol Building in Cheyenne?

Unquestionably, Wyoming strongly supports the Second Amendment – it always has, and gun owners will see to it that it always will. But Magpul’s decision to dump our southern neighbor and move in with us doesn’t mean we have to do everything it wants.

— Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake is the editor-in-chief of The Casper Citizen, a nonprofit, online community newspaper. It can be viewed at

— 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

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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. The important idea for wyofile,s future is to try to evolve as a truly non-partisan platform for wyoming people, ( it has a definite neo-progessive editorial bias) and too separate political national propaganda agendas from open, honest, conservations.

  2. Mr. Johnston:

    I’m compelled to respond to your post below, in which you ask for a reasonable definition of “assault weapon.” You and I disagree about plenty, but I do agree that liberal East Coast politicians generally look like idiots when they start talking about guns.

    However, as a liberal and experienced gun user, I support restricting magazine capacities and pistol grips on rifles. Put simply, a high capacity magazine in a semi-auto rifle encourages *rapid* projection of deadly force. I’ve never been in a shootout, thank goodness, but reason tells us those seconds it takes to reload are vital. And frankly, my friends in the no-gun-restrictions-ever camp need to stop with the false equivalence of guns and cars. Cars are designed to transport. Guns are designed to kill. You guys look absolutely stupid when you compare guns to cars.

    Pistol grips on rifles allow for better clustering of rapid shots; they make it easier to keep your sights on target. A civil society just doesn’t need that kind of deadly force floating around out there.

    Now practically, neither of these restrictions will ever come to be, so you and yours can rest easy with your AR15’s and SKS’s nestled cozily beneath your pillow while I rely on other particularly nasty ways to defend my home and family. But if this nation survives as a political entity into the next century – and I’m not convinced it will – we’ll look back at the gun issue and wonder what the hell we were thinking.

  3. The debate over gun rights is always volatile at room temperature, with a low flash point.
    However, I have one more Afterthought on this topic that I omitted in my missive below. It begins with the actual text of the Second 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 third word: REGULATED . Could not be plainer. Its presence wholly negates the current rhetoric from the NRA and the right and the more vociferous gun advocates that gun ownership and gun rights are somehow untouchable by any law. Except the 2nd Amendment proclaims regulation from the get-go , in plain English.

    Once we get past that , we can have discourse on what exactly the Founders had in mind with the terms ” militia ” and ” infringed “.

    Where do I sign up for this Wyoming militia ?

    It seems to me the NRA and its rabble are trying to infringe the built-in right of government to regulate things with critical social gravitas, like projectile weapons. But it’s a long list…

  4. Daddy’s Girl: I don’t think for a second Mr. Drake hates Wyoming. I don’t know the guy. I do think he is typical of any political party’s base: those other people are awful and criminal while my party are honest and good and is the model of good government. Both parties do it, and both are wrong. One only has to look at the anti Mormon hate speech from “progressives” during the last election cycle. Since the op ed was about guns and corporate welfare, New York is exibit one. In 2008 or 2009, Remington bought the company Bushmaster. In 2010, the State of New York paid Remington $2.4 million to move the rifle manufacturing from Maine to Remington’s New York plant. Both are wrong because I oppose corporate welfare regardless of who is doing it or the industry involved.

    gwarnock: And if you don’t agree with MSNBC 100 percent, some lefties will call you “racist, homophobic, reactionary.” What I found from not only growing up in Rock Springs, but also living in five states and four countries, that the vast majority of people don’t fit neatly in boxes created by Fox or MSNBC. Don’t think for a second MSNBC and Thom Hartman don’t do the same as Fox and Rush. There is no difference between Fox’s Islamaphobia and MSNBC’s Mormonphobia. Both are equally dispicable, and I detest them both equally.

  5. cecil
    Did you even read Mr. Drake’s article or my post?
    He was talking about manufacturers power structure in the state and our politicians slant, and the reasonable regs that “drove” the gun makers out of CO.
    And my only “diatribe” was against the .01% that run this country.

  6. Mr. Gwarnock, the column written by Mr. Drake deals with gun regulations in WY. I appreciate that you are an ardent supporter of a particular political persuasion; however, I am perplexed by your need to pen diatribes rather than address the subject.

  7. DG, well said, what I have found from daily life and surfing the blogs is that those that wish to divide us into “categories” are generally Faux News pundits and the Rush Limbaugh flock. If one has any friends in Wyoming, most likely, some are staunch Republicans, or probably Libertarians, yet they too believe in the same things as “Lefties” do when we get together and talk, these shadow groups like ALEC, Americans For Prosperity, The Heritage Foundation, are corporate entities that want free reign with no regulations, no accountability and no responsibility for their actions, their incessant lies, when repeated constantly, become believable. They use hate and fear like we use a toothbrush, to divide and manipulate the working class into believing the “other-side” wants to destroy them. Their obscene wealth allows them to buy scientists, politicians, news outlets and endless television campaigns against anything they deem contrary to their “trickle-down” economic theory, when money gets to the top, it stays there!
    When I was growing up, dad worked full time and mom part time after the kids got older, brother went to collage, my sister and chose not to, we had a new car and a house and saved for retirement, today, not so much.
    The uber rich own this country, lock, stock and barrel and we are merely pawns divided, into black and white,,,,

  8. RBD, I know Kerry Drake well and can attest that he does NOT hate Wyoming. What I wonder is — do you think that those who are not right-wing republicans hate Wyoming? Do you think it’s anti-Wyoming to be liberal? What is your definition of the Wyoming you say he hates? Are others unwelcome here if they don’t subscribe to the way you think a Wyomingite should be?
    Kerry Drake is not the only Wyomingite who wants our citizens to be protected FROM guns, pollution and policies that only enrich some while injuring everyone else. He isn’t the only Wyomingite who opposes greed and injustice. He is not the only person who wants citizens’ lives to improve — not just for some who live here, but all.
    I, for one, am very glad he has a place where he can speak for those of us who do not have as strong a voice.

  9. “• (in a political context) favoring maximum individual liberty in political and social reform : a liberal democratic state. ]”

    Really? Somebody needs to call Oxford – Oxford obviously missed the boat on the definition of liberal. The definition of liberal has evolved from what they wrote back in the day to something like:

    “(in a political context) favoring limited individual liberty and freedom in order to support the collective : a state of taking from the productive members of society and re-distributing to the non-productive members of society : limiting rights with overwhelming rules as regulations to give the perception the so-called leaders are support the collective as a whole : bleeding hearts, supporting the self inflicted victims in society : “poor me”

  10. Mr. Drake asks shouldn’t WY show wariness in attempting to get Magpul to locate in WY. He then states that a grant and a loan were applied for, not granted. (If such benefits, i.e. the grant and loan were given please tell us the terms). . The article implies that something nefarious was done. All the facts are important to further the discussion. Parenthetically, what is the purpose of LEADS and the Cheyenne Business Council if it is not to promote bringing industry to WY?

  11. As a liberal, a classical liberal who views modern liberals as faux liberals who would be against much of the Enlightenment, your op ed is based on several fallacies.
    1- Please define reasonable and what is an “assault weapon”? Basically it is a semi automatic rifle that looks scary and black but functions like a semi automatic rifle with a pretty wooden stock. There is no such technical definition, it is a legal and political definition. Under Connecticut law, the rifle Mr. Lanza used was not an “assault weapon”. However, pistols used in the Olympics and International Shooting Sports Federation competitions like the Walther GSP is an “assault weapon” under California law. See how absurd it sounds? It is absurd because gun laws are often written by ignorant fear mongers. What are “reasonable and common sense” both are meaningless weasel terms. When I ask, I rarely get an answer. When I do, it usually involves federal laws that have been on the books since the 1930s and 1960s. Please, what is reasonable and common sense and why are they?
    2- I noticed that you blame the “gun lobby and corporations” as blocking Congress’ efforts. I’m guessing you haven’t noticed polls. Speaking of the “will of the people” I noticed that you failed to mention that the lobbyists who wrote the bill were employees of the City of New York and lobbyists for MAIG. The bills were not popular in Colorado, even among Democrats, and the recalled politicians treated their constituents with disdain and disrespect while taking money from and doing the bidding for out of state billionaires like Bloomberg. That was the real reason for the recall. As a liberal, are you for or against big money interests over the will of the people? Truth is the gun lobby represents the “will of the people” more than Bloomberg or the former Monsanto PR executive he hired to run his astro turf Mothers Demand Action.
    3-It had nothing to do with “keeping people safe”. Gun laws are about culture war and ideological dominance. That is why gun control arguments are based on emotion and loaded with logical fallacies, because there is no rational basis for their cause. Historically it has been about repression in the US, especially in the South. For example the KKK got “universal background checks” passed in Michigan in 1925 and in North Carolina in 1919. They even got a handgun ban (for some people) in South Carolina that lasted from 1911-1965. In Europe it was the red scare.
    4-People don’t need 30 round magazines. People don’t need cars that go over the speed limit either, but there is no department of needs, and is not a valid argument in a liberal democracy. I have noticed the “don’t need it for self defense” argument usually come from people who know nothing on the subjects of firearms or defense.
    5-While Cheyenne and DC are owned by corporations, and politicians there shake down corporations. The problem isn’t unique to either place and certainly not unique to Republicans. It isn’t even unique to the US. When one looks at cronyism and corruption, Detroit and the state of Illinois comes to mind. Come to think of it, there is a 20 percent chance of MAIG members becoming convicted felons. In fact during this last election cycle, Bloomberg lost three mayors to the criminal justice system. But I digress.

  12. Sadly , neo macro media politics has devolved into competing mono-cultures, fear mongering , name calling and other inferences, to the benefit of the political media at the expense of good government for good people. The media is as much to blame for divided government as politicians are. Democrats in Wyoming seem to have shot themselves in the foot, which is sad. The Sullivan and Frudenthal voices of intelligent moderation and the sense of the common good are sadly missing as part of the conservation. The new special interest. political media model is more fear based than community based. Wyoming isn’t perfect and never will be . Mr. Drake has every right to voice his opinions as a journalist and I wish him all the best . I,m sure he has all the best intentions and I do hope that his currant situation improves as I am sure it will. He has a caring soul and probably deserves better pay. I also feel that bi-polar politics is ultimately as dysfunctional on a state level as it has become on the federal level. I am also as a citizen of Wyoming and the USA,and am participating , thanks.

  13. I think what is lost in the debate over gun rights and what the Second Amendment says or doesn’t say is the notion of what ” regulation” actually is. Off the top, there are no rights that are not regulated. The right to free speech does not allow you to get away with hollering fire in an empty theater ( an old cliché , I know , but illustrates the point). Similarly the right to vote is conditional on residency and other identity regulations that must be met . State’s rights have been trumped a hundred times by things like interstate commerce regulations ad infinitum ad absurdum.

    So why is it that gun advocates believe that their right to bear arms is absolutely unconditional or just plain absolute ? Or coming at the question from another vector, why must I pass a comprehensive driving test to get a license , then have mandatory liability insurance to operate my car ? Cessna ? Boat ? Do I have a right and the implied freedom to drive 2 tons of steel at 75mph into a crowded pedestrian mall just because I can ? So why do gun owners demand absolution from necessary and reasonable regulations ?

    With rights come responsibilities , and regulations are needed to assure those responsibilities and put everybody on the same page. This is not ” liberal ” dogma – it’s common sense and the elevation of the greater public good.

    Just because you aren’t a card-carrying Conservative does not automatically brand you a Liberal, whatever THAT is…

    [ Here’s the Oxford Dictionary definition of ” liberal” as the adjective descriptive of one with these qualities. to wit:
    liberal |?lib(?)r?l|
    – open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values : they have more liberal views toward marriage and divorce than some people.
    • (in a political context) favoring maximum individual liberty in political and social reform : a liberal democratic state. ]

  14. While Mr. Drake tends to be one sided, presents half the story to support his overly liberal agenda, lacks the ability to be more open minded and likes to use inflammatory words like “economic terrorist” to generate discussion in lieu of more fact based writing – I think he does hate Wyoming – I disagree that WyoFile in general is “anti-Wyoming.”

    In my opinion, I tend to find the articles insightful and WyoFile is willing to tackle the issues most news organizations are unwilling to. The articles tend to be well written, factual and lack the strong bias you sometimes see in the so called mainstream media. Most news found in the mainstream media is poorly written, often inaccurate and lacks anything you would call “in depth.” Just read the Cheyenne rag sometime.

    I for one read WyoFile on a regular basis – it is part of my regular routine. Do I agree with everything written? No. But I like the stories, the writing and their approach to providing information to the public the mainstream media is unwilling to tackle. Wyoming is a great state, great place to live, but like every other place in this country, there are positives and negative challenges. Keep up the good work WyoFile

  15. Happy road apples, our “representatives” grovel at the feet of Big Energy while they poison our land, air and water with free reign, and now the National Rifle Manufactures Association? Building their plant for them,, what, because they can’t afford to build it themselves? They are moving because Colorado wanted to try to keep their residents safer? Pure Politics, thanks “ALEC” Mead, for making Wyoming the figurehead of the Right Wing dysfunction of “smaller government”!

  16. Let’s all hype “safe” renewable energy, Drake! As a supporter of the Wyoming Outdoor Council, I have learned that each energy source has it’s pros and cons. Poorly sited wind farms have harmful effects, such as migratory bird fatalities, and the required transmission lines, not to mention the huge expanse of land required for solar farms. It is not all peaches and roses for the renewable energy industry, particularly with China importing cheap solar panels, that US companies cannot compete with. Any manufacturing that relocates to the state is good for jobs, the economy, and the tax base. Stop with the nonsensical attack on the second amendment

  17. Mr. lousewort rodgers,

    I always enjoy, and truly appreciate, your contributions to discussions on the WyoFile forum. They add value, and much to consider. Thank you.
    I have to take issue with the suggestion that WyoFile’s drive is a chorus of “let’s all hate Wyoming,” however. Quite the opposite.
    In addition to our core mission of in-depth reporting, we also gladly welcome perspectives from all walks of life in Wyoming, and we consider those voices a valuable contribution to statewide discussions. In the case of The Drake’s Take, WyoFile does take pride in offering a columnist with a view that is not in line with the voting majority, because we believe that Mr. Drake’s challenges to the notion that Wyoming is a monoculture are an invitation to those who normally feel sidelined to participate. Most of all, WyoFile aims to inform for the purpose of increasing engagement from all points of view, and from all walks of life and experiences in Wyoming.
    It’s true that news organizations tend to focus on the problems of the day, and that’s because those entities that are well-equipped and tied into the system don’t require the assistance of reporters and columnists to promote their interests. We do, in fact, seek to shine a light on areas that need improvement, that need transparency. We do, in fact, actively seek out those who have stories and perspectives that are not in line with a senator’s or a governor’s message machine — in addition to giving proper credence to those same traditional (and vital) sources — to, hopefully, provide a more comprehensive forum.
    I tend to take criticisms of Wyoming policy as genuine love and concern for the state and for our neighbors, and I accept that it’s an attempt to make things better. And we all participate in that. — Dustin Bleizeffer, WyoFile editor-in-chief

  18. high capacity magazines for personal defense are as fantasy based as vertical greenhouses. Lets all hate Wyoming. the song of wyofile

  19. Please! How can anyone deny that there has been or that there will ever be a need to fight? Human nature has a dark side and to ignore that fact is to walk down the primrose path. “Can’t we all get along?” is a statement based on nievite. 20 and 30 round magazines are what modern, effective fighting rifles use. To deny the means for a reasonable defense is to treat your citizens as irresponsible children…and if you misbehave… One cannot expect one’s rights to be repected if they are guarded soley by a political system that is hijacked by BIG money at every turn. Those who are unwilling to fight when neccessary really should leave those who are, alone.

  20. Big Energy, Ag and now guns are the holy Trinity of Wyoming politics, all worshiped and served by the Republican Party, which has eschewed compromise in the name of absolute, pure loyalty to those interests and none other. Everything and everyone else — go to the back of the bus!

  21. While I think Wyoming should be doing more to draw industry of all types to the state I also think that Wyoming had a conversations on guns, turns out the majority of Wyomingites don’t feel that more regulation is the answer.

  22. Interesting that they bend over backwards for this company, yet for all the hoops our Vertical Greenhouse group had to jump through to get a pittance of help from Wyo Biz council and others speaks volumes.

  23. I don’t think the state is ready to talk about gun regulations. But could this episode not spur discussion about the future of the state’s economy? It strikes me as at best irrational to offer such generous subsidies to a company that will transfer lower wage workers in from out of state (their press releases indicate that they will offer to move current Colorado employees) to work in unspecified circumstances while the company moves it’s headquarters to Texas. This is similar to the strategy pursued by Mexican maquiladora operators, who located their production lines to low wage, NAFTA friendly states while maintaining headquarters elsewhere.

    Does Wyoming really want to go this route over this issue? Is this how we want to use public funds to invest in the state’s future? What’s next? Will they threaten to relocate if Enzi moves forward with the bill to tax internet sales? What will we do then?