By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A bill that would allow law-abiding residents of other states to carry concealed weapons in Wyoming without a permit would benefit tourism in the state, its sponsor said Wednesday.
Rep. Robert Wharff, R-Evanston, successfully urged members of the House Judiciary Committee to approve HB116, which would extend Wyoming’s privilege for law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons without permits to visitors of the state, saying the change would be important for visitors who like to carry weapons.
“I know there’s a lot of people who travel, a lot who like to be able to … know that they can do so … without worries,” he said. “People love to come to our state … because we afford those constitutional rights.”
In the past, to carry a concealed weapon, Wyoming residents had to obtain a permit from law enforcement officers. Several years ago, the Legislature lifted the requirement for a permit for Wyoming residents who were at least 21 and legally eligible to possess a firearm. The bill would extend that privilege to law-abiding residents of the United States.
\Wyoming is one of 18 states to allow the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit and16 of those states extend the same privilege to visitors who meet their requirements, said Nephi Cole, director of government relations for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Cole said his organization backs the change because now, concealed weapons permits from some states are not recognized by Wyoming, so the holders of those permits cannot carry a concealed weapon in the state.
“We don’t like the loophole,” he said. “We think it is appropriate that we treat everybody the same in this regard.”
Cole added that some states that have extended to visitors the right to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, such as Utah, have become destinations for people seeking to training and permits for concealed weapons.
The bill was approved for floor debate on a vote of 8-1 despite reservations voiced by Byron Oedekoven, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chief of Police.
Oedekoven said while his organization agrees law-abiding citizens should be able to carry weapons, members are worried that the bill could leave law enforcement officers unable to take action against those who may not be law-abiding.
“I hope at some point in the future, you help us in the matter of dealing with those who are up to no good,” he said. “At three in the morning, the three guys who are riding with a dope dealer … who are carrying the gun, upon this bill passing, as near as I can tell, I just get to compliment them on their style of weapon and their manner of carry and wish them a fond good day.”