Gun Owners of America is an interesting organization. It’s an alternative to groups like the NRA, one that bills itself as “no compromise.”
That’s a very good thing.
So imagine my surprise to check the gun news this morning and find that they were taking issue with a bill in Wyoming that would restore gun rights to non-violent felons.
Yet, they actually have a bit of a point. You see, they’re not taking issue with the entirety of the bill, just one part of it.
The Wyoming Legislature is poised to pass hidden gun control in a bill labeled “Restoration of Civil Rights!” SF0120 has already passed the Wyoming Senate and its first hurdle in a House Committee!
This bill proposes to restore the right to bear arms to one-time non-violent felons in Wyoming. However, it contains provisions not necessary for doing this, and it actually revokes rights not currently revoked under Wyoming statutes.
Is this true?
Well, it sure looks like it.
The well-meaning bill sponsor, Senator Eric Barlow [R] from Gillette, has stated that the intent of SF0120 is to expand on 2017 voting rights restoration processes and also restore firearms rights to individuals convicted of one-time, nonviolent felonies. GOA supports this concept, but the story does not end there!
As stated in a recent WyoFile article, Barlow admits, “Wyoming law annuls someone’s right to vote, serve on a jury or hold public office if convicted of a felony, while it’s federal law that prohibits those individuals from owning or using a gun. Because there’s no congruent state statute for the latter (he means loss of firearms rights), the bill creates such a restriction — the idea being that the state cannot return a right that it has not revoked. If we don’t do that, we can’t directly restore [that right].”
To make a long story short, SF0120 revokes the firearms rights of non-violent felons, which is not done under current Wyoming law!
And, because of the way the bill is structured, it would create such an infraction.
Yet there’s no requirement for such a bill to do so. Rights can be restored without such a provision, so I get where they’re coming from on this.
Especially since they’re not opposing the bill outright, they just want that provision to be removed, which seems like a minor ask. Again, it’s not like it will suddenly allow criminals who haven’t had their rights restored to carry guns. That prohibition exists at the federal level, after all, so there’s no need for a state-level law as well, even if you believe it’s necessary.
As such, removing that provision should be relatively easy at this point, though more difficult to do later.
That said, I wouldn’t want to see this bill scuttled over that bit of language. As noted, felons possessing guns is already illegal, and a state law to that effect isn’t going to suddenly lead to thousands of Wyoming residents being arrested where they wouldn’t have been earlier.
Yes, fix this oversight, but if it can’t be for some idiotic reason, I wouldn’t lose sleep over it myself.