Gun bill change elicits threats
By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
March 2, 2013
Alta Republican Leland Christensen has come under fire from pro-gun advocates for his proposal to amend a controversial gun bill that sought to make it a crime for federal agents to enforce new gun restrictions.
The legislator said he received more than 1,500 emails after a committee hearing in which he proposed amending Evansville Republican Rep. Kendell Kroeker’s bill.
“There were some pretty strongly worded emails,” Christensen said Friday. “They were responding to bad information. Most had no idea what had taken place.”
Christensen declined to provide details about the messages he received after the bill passed out of committee. He deleted the emails, the majority of which were prompted by the organization Wyoming Gun Owners and Kroeker, who sent out an email specifically naming Christensen for putting forth the amendment, Christensen said.
The incident was cited this week by legislative leaders as they reflected on the year’s session, which ended Wednesday. Senate President Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, and House Speaker Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, raised concerns about the efforts of special interest groups to influence the legislative process.
The legislative leaders said the “institution is under attack.”
Members of the judiciary committee took up Kroeker’s bill Feb. 20. The emails began that night, Christensen said.
Members of Wyoming Gun Owners posted photos of Christensen on their Facebook pages after the committee hearing with messages such as “Won’t Republican Sen. Christensen fight Obama’s gun grab?” Another message said Christensen had “gutted” Kroeker’s bill.
The posts attracted strong comments. Some called for impeaching Christensen. Others attacked him for acting like a “Democrap.”
One person urged others to “send him some hate mail and if you get a chance to go to his auction and run the bids up and don’t pay. Show him the same treachery he has shown us.”
Another person offered this advice: “Recall him. That is your only option unless someone caps his ass.”
“When I found out what they put on their Facebook page, I asked [my family] to turn off the answering machine and phones,” Christensen said.
Christensen, who said he supported Kroeker’s bill, said the harsh emails were unexpected. The amendment he proposed was supposed to ensure that the bill made it through the Legislature, he said.
“It would have been too easy to stop without [the amendment],” he said. “It was against our own Wyoming Constitution. It pitted Wyoming law enforcement against federal law enforcement.”
The amendment simply was a recommendation that needed to be reviewed by the full Senate before it could be attached to the bill, Christensen said. He worked on the change with one of the bills co-sponsors, Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs.
“It really was a case of the two sponsors not communicating and disagreeing with each other,” Christensen said.
House Bill 104 passed the House and made it out of the Senate Judiciary committee but failed to make it past a vote on the Senate floor.
Many lawmakers questioned whether the bill was constitutional. They criticized it for the potential problems it could create if state law enforcement officers tried to enforce the law against federal agents.
Supporters of the legislation, including Kroeker, said the bill would have drawn a line in the sand against potential federal regulations against the ownership of semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines.