Wyoming Governor Vetoes Bill Repealing Many 'Gun-Free Zones'

Jay Jenner/Austin American-Statesmanvia AP

Wyoming's gun laws are already pretty strong, but there was a chance to make them even better this year by repealing some of the state's "gun-free zones". Legislators did their part by adopting HB 125 and sending it to Gov. Mark Gordon for his approval, but on Friday night the governor whipped out his veto pen and killed the bill, claiming the legislation raises separation of powers concerns. 

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As Governor, I have signed nine additional bills in support of the Second Amendment which expanded concealed carry; limited firearm seizure; protected firearm commerce and transactions; and created the state shooting sports complex. I continuously promote Wyoming as a Second Amendment-friendly state to businesses, retailers, and manufacturers across the nation. Those businesses agree, as they continue to move operations and manufacturing to Wyoming. Our current laws have also shown constitutional carry and giving school districts the ability to craft local policies allowing for trained staff to carry in schools do not bring about an increase in violence. 

However, House Bill 125/House Enrolled Act No. 49, erodes historic local control norms by giving sole authority to the Legislature to micromanage a constitutionally protected right. Any further clarification of the law, if this bill were enacted, would augment the Legislature's reach into local firearms regulation. The bill exceeds the separation of powers embodied in Article 2 of our Wyoming Constitution. I must, therefore, veto it. 

If enacted, House Enrolled Act No. 49 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. These potential restrictions regarding government and school facilities are not novel. As described by the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in his opinion on the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, "Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose." 


... This is not a veto of the notion of repealing gun free zones, it is a request to approach this topic more transparently. With the authority already in place to address this issue at a local level, I call on school districts, community colleges, and the University 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. 


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I have to say I'm not impressed by Gordon's reasoning here, or his reliance on the gun control lobby's favorite line in the Heller decision. Thanks to Wyoming's firearms preemption law, the state legislature is already the body that, with limited exceptions, sets the rules on the sale, transfer, purchase, delivery, taxation, manufacture, ownership, transportation, storage, use and possession of firearms in the state. HB 125 might have removed some of the existing exceptions, but if Gordon believes that violates the separation of powers then what does he think about the existing preemption language? 

Gordon may proclaim he wants more "transparency" in local conversations, but the real issue is that entities like the University of Wyoming will not establish campus carry policies on its own. That's one of the reasons why lawmakers stepped in and adopted HB 125 to begin with. 

The next question is whether legislators will try to override Gordon's veto. It would take a 2/3rds vote in both chambers to enact HB 125 into law over the governor's objections. The House approved HB 125 on a 54-7 vote, which easily exceeds that threshold, but the Senate vote was much closer, with 22 of the chamber's 31 senators giving assent. If those legislators stand firm the Senate could override Gordon's veto with a couple of votes to spare, but there's no guarantee of that. At this point, the best bet for Wyoming gun owners who want to see HB 125 take effect is to urge their representatives and senators to buck the governor and cast one more vote in favor of the legislation. Those lawmakers already know where the governor stands. Now they need to hear from their constituents. 

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