Senate wary of gun bill
By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: February 9, 2013
A bill that seeks to nullify any future federal gun regulations restricting the ownership of automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines is facing growing skepticism from Wyoming lawmakers.
Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Alta, said senators are working to resolve aspects of House Bill 104 that could present legal problems for state officials.
“Right now there’s some language in there that could put Wyoming law enforcement officers and citizens in a bit of a pickle,” he said Wednesday.
State senators will review the legislation next week.
Christensen is one of five members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is expected to take up House Bill 104. The committee hearing is the first hurdle the bill needs to clear before it makes it to the Senate floor for debate.
At the heart of the debate is a provision in the proposal that would make it a misdemeanor for any federal agent to enforce gun restrictions in Wyoming.
Gov. Matt Mead has been in contact with senators about House Bill 104, Chris-tensen said. In a press conference earlier this week, Mead told reporters he doesn’t like having a law on the books that state officials can’t enforce. Legislators should hold a press conference or pass a resolution instead, Mead said.
Though he can’t threaten to veto legislation, Mead said he has conveyed his concerns to lawmakers.
Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, said he’s still waiting to see whether legislators will propose amendments next week that would clean up the legal uncertainty. He said he wants to hear more from sheriff’s deputies, who would likely be the people who have to deal with the fallout from the proposed legislation.
“I still think it’s worth consideration,” said Dockstader, one of the co-sponsors.
Proponents have said they want to send a message to federal authorities. Evansville Republican Rep. Kendall Kroeker, the bill’s sponsor, has said he believes the state clearly has the authority to enforce its own regulations.
However, a research paper prepared by the Legislative Services Office points out the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes federal law as the highest law in the country.
Though it attracted a significant amount of debate, House Bill 104 made it through the House fairly easily last week with a 46-13 on final reading.
Reps. Marti Halverson, R-Etna; Keith Gingery, R-Jackson; and Ruth Ann Petroff, R-Jackson, all voted in favor of the bill.
Gingery backed it as it made its way through the House, but he said he was hesitant to do so. The legislation won’t have any legal effects, he said.
Several Jackson legislators said they’ve received many emails about House Bill 104, along with several other gun-related bills, from residents.
“It’s a good time for clarification,” said Lynn Sherwood, a shooting in-structor who with her husband owns Jackson Hole Shooting Experience. “Right now gun control is being viewed from an emotional aspect and not a logical aspect.”
Sherwood is worried new regulations being discussed focus on the wrong aspects of gun ownership.
“Why are the law-abiding citizens the ones being penalized?” she said.
House Bill 104 is one of several gun-related bills lawmakers have been discussing this year. House Bill 105, the Citizens and Students Self-Defense Act, died Friday in committee. No one on the Hosue Education Committee made a motion to get the bill to a vote.
The bill would have allowed teachers, parents and guardians who have concealed carry permits to bring guns into schools throughout the state.
Dozens of educators, administrators and police crammed a hearing room to testify against the bill. They said it would make schools less safe.
Supporters said it would have allowed parents and teachers to fight back if a gunman attacked a school.
Sherwood said she was disappointed the bill didn’t make it out of committee.
“I think gun-free zones are victim disarmament zones,” Sherwood said.
Legislators are also reviewing a bill that would help schools pay for resource officers. Gingery said he thinks it’s one of the most effective proposals to boost school safety.
House members have approved that bill. It was referred to a Senate committee Wednesday.
Meeting schedules, copies of bills and legislators’ contact information is available at Legisweb.state.wy.us.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.