By Ramsey Scott
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE — A Senate bill to repeal gun-free zones created by schools and local governments failed to get out of committee Wednesday.
Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, once again sponsored this year's attempt at repealing gun-free zones across the state. Senate File 75 failed on a 3-2 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, with Sens. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, and Brian Boner, R-Douglas, in support. Boner was a co-sponsor.
Bouchard argued SF 75 would eliminate the patchwork system of laws across the state that create confusion about when and where someone can legally carry a weapon. By allowing concealed carry essentially across the board, Wyomingites would be able to exercise their Second Amendment rights without infringement.
He said people would argue that local control kept the state from interfering. But the Legislature has the right to make an overarching decision on eliminating gun-free zones.
"Law-abiding citizens aren't the problem. Criminals were the ones always coming into these places like gun-free zones," Bouchard said.
But the opposition disagreed with Bouchard's assertion that the bill
would provide safety for schools and local governments. Numerous gun-control advocates and representatives from the state's teachers union, community colleges and school boards came out against the bill.
Several teachers spoke about the fear they would have dealing with an angry parent or student if there wasn't a rule preventing guns from being brought onto campus.
Laramie County Community College President Joe Schaffer said Bouchard made a good point about the complication of a patchwork system. But that wasn't enough of an argument to justify removing the power of a local entity to make decisions about how best to protect itself.
Instead, Schaffer said, it was imperative for LCCC and other schools to educate people about the firearms restrictions they put in place.
"We believe that conversations about constitutional limitations should really be determined by the government closest to the people," Schaffer said. "And, in our case, that's the board of trustees."
He said if gun-free zones were repealed, it would create numerous issues and uncertainty for LCCC. That would range from whether a student could bring a gun into a chemistry lab to how to address complaints about threats if the student in question was carrying a gun, or if the college would have to spend substantially more for insurance if guns were allowed on campus.
Janine Teske, a school board member from Teton County School District 1, said local governments need the ability to work within their community to decide what's best for them. She also called into question the rigor of the concealed carry permit process and the danger of having untrained people like herself carrying firearms around children.
"I do not know how to shoot a gun. I have a concealed carry permit. That threshold is really, really low," Teske said.
"I would encourage this is not the right measure to put in place."
After SF 75 failed, Bouchard said the arguments against this and other attempts to repeal gun-free zones always predicted terrible ramifications.
"It's all the same arguments every time we have any kind of gun bill," Bouchard said.
"The sky was going to fall, danger's happening. It's all the same argument, and it's emotional. They're not looking at the reality."
While SF 75 was shot down in the Senate, a similar effort in the House to repeal gun-free zones, House Bill 183, has been filed and is awaiting assignment to committee.