LARAMIE — The Wyoming Supreme Court denied a writ of review on behalf of Uinta County resident Lyle Williams, who challenged the University of Wyoming’s ability to regulate firearms on its campus.
The Supreme Court’s Tuesday decision, based on a 3-2 vote among justices, denies reconsideration of a ruling by Tori Kricken, the Albany County district court judge, who said earlier in July that the university can regulate and prohibit firearms on campus.
Williams was cited in 2018 for open-carrying a gun inside the university’s convention center during the state Republican party’s annual conference. Williams was one of many attendees who open-carried a gun with the intention of getting a citation and challenging UW’s gun policy.
The misdemeanor trespassing charge brought attention to UW’s gun policy and the first real challenge to its ability to regulate firearms on campus.
Williams’ attorneys argued the Supreme Court should review the order because the issues raised garnered media attention and called into question whether UW can regulate firearms. While the case might present important questions, Wyoming’s Attorney General argued that those were addressed in a previous ruling from the district court in which Kricken wrote statute provided that only Wyoming firearms were exempt from regulation by local entities.
Regardless, Kricken said that UW counts as a state entity and, as such, is entitled to regulate any firearms.
With Williams not challenging any of the district court’s analysis or conclusions as incorrect or contrary to existing law, the attorney general argued the court should not grant “an extraordinary writ” for Williams’s hope it would reach a different conclusion. Additionally, the state said that it would be premature to rule in this case while his misdemeanor trespassing charge is still pending in circuit court.
The Wyoming Supreme Court's majority did not offer an explanation Tuesday for their refusal to rehear the case, though it noted Chief Justice Michael K. Davis and Justice Keith Kautz would have granted the petition.
Jason Tangeman, Williams’ Laramie-based lawyer, said he would continue to represent Williams in the misdemeanor criminal matter.
“We’re disappointed and we’ll continue to pursue all remedies available to Mr. Williams in the courts,” Tangeman said.
Tangeman said he anticipates a circuit court trial in absence of any other procedural mechanism taking place. With the remaining legal matter pending, Williams’s case could have another opportunity to be heard by the state’s highest court.
In her July ruling, Kricken concluded that UW acts as an arm of the state, so it is not included in the law that prevents most local or subsidiary elements of government in Wyoming from regulating firearms. The university’s regulations do not violate the provisions in the United States and Wyoming constitutions that protect gun rights, either facially or as applied to Williams, Kricken ruled.
Kricken ruled against Williams in 2018 on similar grounds to those in her July 2 opinion, but that ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court last September. The high court found that Kricken had improperly ruled in the case, as circuit court Judge Robert Castor had not officially asked her for help in deciding the legal issues at stake in the case.
In the September Supreme Court ruling, Davis and Kautz wrote that the majority's decision “simply avoids the primary issue and forces additional unnecessary litigation.” The trespassing charge, the dissenters wrote, would still stand even if the court provided declaratory relief for Williams.