Posted at 3:35 p.m., March 11, 2015

Gun-Free Zones Act misfires in legislature

A controversial bill poised to question Second Amendment rights misfired in the 63rd Wyoming legislative session.

House Bill 114 (HB 114), also known as the Wyoming Repeal Gun-Free Zones Act, was a bill to make it legal for Wyoming concealed carry permit holders to bring guns into previously restricted areas such as public schools, government facilities, college and university campuses and athletic events. The bill passed the Wyoming House of Representatives with a vote of 42-17. However, it then passed into a Senate committee, where it was amended. The amended bill then failed on the Senate floor, with a vote of 27-3.

Every few years, a similar bill comes before the Legislature. However, one has yet to pass. The law proposed in HB 114 mimics those Utah adopted; Utah has not experienced a school shooting since 1999.

The Legislature has seen multiple versions of the bill, and each one has failed. In 2013, the Senate Education Committee allowed HB 105, the Citizens’ and Students’ Self-Defense Act, to die without action, preventing it from reaching the Senate floor. The Education Committee is the same one that created the amendment to HB 114 that caused the bill sponsors to say they would rather see it die than see it passed with such wording.

However, before the House passed the bill, a very similar amendment was proposed and failed. Rep. Jerry Paxton, R-Encampment, was one of the sponsors of an amendment that proposed school districts would be able to determine their own firearms policies. But that amendment failed in the House with a 32-27 vote. The original wording of the bill was passed instead.

Wyoming residents testify

After making it past the House floor, HB 114 was sent to the Education Committee before preceding to the Senate floor. The committee is compiled of Chairman Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody; Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Glenrock; Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton; Sen. Stephan Pappas, R-Cheyenne and Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie.

At the Senate Education Committee meeting, many residents testified about the bill. Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow, Wyoming Educators Association President Kathy Vetter and University of Wyoming lobbyist Chris Boswell all testified against the bill. Economist John Lott Jr. testified in favor of it.

The committee introduced an amendment that changed the bill so that local governing bodies would make the decision to allow firearms on their premises. Therefore, if passed, the board of trustees for Laramie County Community College would have had to decide if guns were allowed on the LCCC campus.

Amendment allows governing bodies to decide

This amendment was highly controversial, being called a substitute and in some cases, “counterfeit legislation,” as Anthony Bouchard, executive director of the Wyoming Gun Owners, called it. Before the amendment was introduced, the National Rifle Association backed HB 114, believing it to be a fundamental right for concealed carry permit holders to carry weapons wherever they want. After the HB 114 was passed through the Education Committee, the NRA withdrew its support of the bill, and the bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Allen Jaggi, R-Lyman, said he did not like the amendment.

Under the proposal originally introduced by Jaggi, concealed carry permit holders would have been allowed to take firearms any public place except courtrooms. Private businesses and landowners would have been able to prohibit firearms on their property. This was considered by many to be a fundamental right under the Second Amendment. After HB 114 passed out of committee, the NRA referred to it as “grossly amended and no longer reflects the original intent of the bill sponsors.”

HB 114 then proceeded into the Senate with the newly established language, where it failed with only three of the 30 votes in favor of it.

State of Wyoming bill reference

2015 Legislative update

Bill passes concerning
Hathaway Scholarships

Career and Technical Training scholarships

Wine wins with a compromise,
powdered alcohol loses altogether