By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming’s sheriffs are objecting to a portion of a bill designed to limit the ability of the federal government to regulate firearms.
The Wyoming Sheriff’s Association, in a letter to legislators, said as it is currently written, the “Second Amendment Preservation Act” could leave its members in an “impossible dilemma” as they try to enforce the law.
“The … Act, while well intentioned to prohibit firearms confiscation by federal entities to unknown future laws, could actually inhibit Wyoming peace officers from enforcing certain Wyoming statutes, conducting complete investigations and ensuring successful prosecution,” said the letter, signed by all 23 of Wyoming’s sheriffs.
Two bills have been filed for consideration during the Legislature’s general session, Senate File 81 and House Bill 124, that would declare federal laws they identify as “infringements on the people’s right to keep and bear arms” as invalid.
The bill would also declare invalid any federal law “ordering the confiscation of firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition from law abiding citizens.”
The bills would also bar any Wyoming law enforcement officers from enforcing any federal laws ruled an infringement on the Second Amendment.
However, the letter said the law would leave law enforcement unable to seize weapons from people accused of serious crimes.
“For example, we could normally seize a firearm as part of a local case and turn the firearm over to federal entities for prosecution,” he wrote. “These cases run the gamut of aggravated robbery, child pornography and various dangerous drug investigations.”
Another section of the bill would allow people whose weapons have been seized to sue the officer involved, who would have no immunity from damages, even if acting within the scope of his duties.
“To punish and hold liable a peace officer who seizes a weapon which is later returned, is wrong,” the letter said. “It is already difficult to recruit and retain quality peace officers.”
The letter stressed the association and its members are supporters of the Second Amendment, but that they cannot support the current version of the bill.
“The Wyoming Sheriff’s Association, collectively and individually, hold the United States and Wyoming Constitutions in the highest regard,” it said. “We, the Wyoming Sheriffs, respectfully request that the Wyoming Legislature seek laws that allow us to perform our duties while still protecting the law-abiding citizen’s right to keep and bear arms, which we hold as an absolute.”
The federal actions the two bills identify as infringements on the Second Amendment include any tax or fee imposed on firearms and accessories “that might reasonably be expected to create a chilling effect on the purchase or ownership of those items,” the registration or tracking of firearms or ammunition and any act forbidding the possession, ownership or transfer of a firearm.
The law would apply to federal rules and laws already in place as well as any passed in the future.
The Senate verision of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, is awaiting a review in the House Judiciary Committee, where it as referred in February. The House version, sponsored by Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell, is awaiting introduction in the House.