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Governor vetoes bill to repeal gun-free zones in Wyoming

By Brian Martin
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via- Wyoming News Exchange

CHEYENNE — Late Friday evening, Gov. Mark Gordon’s office announced that he had vetoed a bill that would have repealed Wyoming’s gun-free zones.

House Bill 125 received widespread support in both chambers of the Wyoming Legislature, but although he signed four bills related to firearms freedom this session and nine others in support of the Second Amendment, he said he couldn’t support this one.

“House Bill 125/Enrolled Act No. 49 erodes historic local control norms by giving sole authority to the Legislature to micromanage a constitutionally protected right,” Gordon wrote in his veto letter. “Any further clarification of the law, if this bill were enacted, would augment the Legislature’s reach into local firearms regulation.”

He went on to say that if it became law, it “would require every one of our unique state facilities, such as the University of Wyoming, Wyoming State Hospital, or the Wyoming Boys School, to receive legislative approval to restrict carrying firearms, or even to set policies as practical as proper weapon storage.”

The veto doesn’t mean Gordon doesn’t support the idea of repealing gun-free zones, however. In the letter, he went on to say that the main problem with HB 125 was its lack of transparency and flexibility.

He encouraged officials in local school districts, community colleges and the University of Wyoming to “take up these difficult conversations again and establish policies that allow for the safe carry of concealed weapons within their facilities.”

“It is one thing to have had the conversation — as four school districts in the state have done — to allow for trained employees to carry on campus or others who have decided on hiring additional school safety officers; and yet another to avoid the topic altogether,” Gordon wrote.

He added that he will direct the State Building Commission — which he chairs — to start the process of reconsidering rules in order to allow concealed carry permit holders to exercise their rights within the state Capitol and other appropriate state facilities.

“This process will involve significant public input and consist of carefully crafted policies which have the ability to contemplate the unique circumstances in the State’s array of jurisdictions,” he wrote. “These conversations will set the state for robust and well-informed legislation in the best traditions of the Wyoming Legislature.”

HB 125 was sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland, who said gun-free zones create “soft targets” for people who want to do harm to others. During the session, he opposed an amendment designed to let certain government bodies, such as schools, continue to decide whether to allow concealed weapons in their facilities.

“We are deciding that rights matter in some places, but don’t in others,” Haroldson said at the time. “I have a Second Amendment right to bear arms. When we do this — I definitely am all for local control — but what we are doing in this situation is we are making a patchwork quilt of legality across the state. We are getting ourselves to a place where we are telling people what their rights are.”

The bill ultimately passed the lower chamber on a 54-7-1 vote.

After being introduced in the Senate, it died in the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 3-2 vote, but senators suspended their own rules and forced it out of committee, voting 16-15 to continue debate on the chamber floor. After additional amendments, it passed 22-8-1.

Senators like Troy McKeown, R-Gillette, said HB 125 would have restored a fundamental right.

“We are going to give our constitutional rights over to a government agency. If they are going to deny our Second Amendment rights, what’s next? The First Amendment? Fourth Amendment? This is guaranteed in the Constitution,” McKeown said during the session. “If we let school superintendents decide on this constitutional right, it won’t be long before they are deciding on First Amendment rights.” 

But Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, told WyoFile earlier this year that when she arrived at the Capitol this legislative budget session, three death threats were waiting in her mailbox.

She told the nonprofit, online news outlet she has watched people stand in the gallery overlooking the House of Representatives, trying to intimidate her “all day.” If guns were allowed in the Capitol, she’d “have to make a decision about whether I want to bring my concealed firearm with me to the Capitol or not.”

In his office’s release late Friday, Gordon announced that he had signed four other bills that day to “strengthen Wyoming’s status as a Second Amendment-friendly state.” They are as follows:

    • SF 73, “Concealed firearms- permit eligibility,” which amends the concealed carry permit regulations to make those who have had their firearms rights restored eligible.
    • SF 105, “Wyoming Second Amendment Financial Privacy Act,” which protects the privacy and sensitive financial information of people purchasing firearms, firearms parts, or ammunition in Wyoming by prohibiting credit card processors from using firearms or firearm- related merchant category codes. It also prohibits government or private entities from keeping any registry of privately-owned firearms or the owners of those firearms created or maintained through the use of a firearms code.
    • SF 109, “Prohibit Red Flag Gun Seizure Act,” which prohibits red flag gun laws from being enforced or implemented in Wyoming; and
    • SF 86, “School safety and security-funding,” which creates an account to reimburse school districts for costs related to possession of firearms on school property by school district employees.
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