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To Some…Gun Bills Matter

Guns in Walmart
Bob Beck

This year the Wyoming Legislature is dealing with a couple of pro-gun bills. So what else is new? It seems like lawmakers are discussing gun bills all the time, but supporters of the legislation say that’s because there are still self-defense and safety issues that need to be resolved.  

Lawmakers have generated headlines as they’ve tried to give gun owners more of an opportunity to defend themselves in public with Stand Your Ground legislation. The concern is that the courts have sometimes blamed gun owners for not using restraint in situations where someone believed their life was in danger. The other bill allows guns in churches. The sponsor of that bill is Representative Bunky Loucks of Casper who said he was driven by recent shootings at churches.

“I mean there’s going to be more and more of these things happen, there’s a lot of sick people out there. The guy who’s going to go commit a mass murder in an unhardened place as well call it now, they’re not going to go to the biker bar and the police department. They’re going to kill people who can’t defend themselves and know they can’t, it just isn’t working.”

Lawmakers did pass a bill last year that let school boards decide if trained teachers should be allowed to have guns in schools. Measures to allow guns on college campuses and in government meetings were either voted down or vetoed. 

In recent years Wyoming passed a law that allowed people to carry concealed weapons without a permit. House Majority Leader David Miller said public shootings across the country have clearly influenced the actions of the bill sponsors. 

“I think it does, absolutely. You know the pressures from these events that occur, you know the one recently in Florida puts pressure on doing more here.”

Down the hall in the Senate sits former gun lobbyist and freshman Senator Anthony Bouchard. Bouchard has worked hard to get gun legislation passed and sometimes he’s been very aggressive. He says that’s because things are getting serious in the country. While some see the solution as fewer guns, Bouchard says the solution is being able to protect yourself. He is adamant that gun-free areas, like schools and the Wyoming legislature, are dangerous.

“The right that you have to defend yourself shouldn’t end just when you cross over into another piece of property, especially when it’s government property.”

Lander Senator Cale Case also believes Guns should be allowed in most places. He’s a Republican, but most view him as a strong libertarian. Case has fought hard for gun legislation over the years, but he wants responsible gun legislation.

“I have trouble thinking about a place where a gun shouldn’t be. On the other hand, I think if somebody uses a gun, they have to be responsible for it. And having the gun you can’t have immunity in my mind about what might happen. It has to meet this reasonable test and I think that’s balance on both sides.” 

Case was referencing efforts by Stand Your Ground advocates to give blanket immunity from prosecution in situations where someone believed their life was in danger. But that aside, Case said 2nd amendment rights are about protecting yourself. He added that it can be dangerous sometimes, but smiled and said so can the first amendment. But one thing he’s very serious about is his belief that guns in public places will limit some of the high profile shootings in recent years. 

“I honestly don’t think we can provide enough school resources, resource officers, or metal detectors or keyway systems into all schools and other public places that we can protect. And I know that this is where people are deeply on the other side and I don’t know how we’re going to work that out.”

Bouchard also understands that there are those that believe that gun rights advocates have lost their minds and are making things more unsafe. But he says despite concerns by law enforcement, concealed carry without a permit has had very little negative impact in the state. He thinks anti-gun laws have actually done more damage.

“It seems that when we look at areas with limited guns, used gun control, it doesn’t look like they’re safer there. It puts an imbalance towards where citizens don’t have the ability to protect themselves.”

Bouchard says as long as the federal government brings up the topic of enhanced gun laws, it encourages states like Wyoming to pass bills restoring gun rights. But Green River Representative Stan Blake says Wyoming really doesn’t need a lot more gun laws. 

Blake is a Democrat who generally votes FOR second amendment bills, but he doesn’t know what kind of good they do. He laughs and says most people in Wyoming are armed, whether they admit it or not.

“I think Wyoming gun ownership is like the highest, I would think twice about being a criminal coming to Wyoming, because you might have a big surprise when you open the door.”

Blake says national groups will continue to bring new gun legislation because it’s what they do. House Majority Leader David Miller adds that those groups have found that gun bills are helpful when it comes to elections.

“You know there’s people trying to make points one way or another with all these bills, you know the game better than most and they get recorded votes and all this and use it in campaigns.”

Miller said to expect another slew of gun bills next year.

Bob Beck retired from Wyoming Public Media after serving as News Director of Wyoming Public Radio for 34 years. During his time as News Director WPR has won over 100 national, regional and state news awards.
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