A bill that would prohibit the University of Wyoming and the state’s community colleges from creating their own firearms rules was approved for full debate on the Senate floor by a Senate committee Friday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-1 in support of Senate File 137, which sponsor Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, said would prevent a “patchwork” of gun regulations from being in effect across the state.
“(This bill) is just intended for those who have reservations about repealing our gun-free zones but don’t like the idea of a patchwork of regulations across the state,” he told the committee.
The bill stems in part from a case in which a delegate to the Wyoming Republican Party convention in Laramie in 2018 was cited for trespass because he refused to remove the handgun he was carrying. The university said it had a policy against firearms on campus, however, there is no state law banning firearms on campus.
A state district court judge upheld the citation, saying state law gives the university the authority to regulate Wyoming-made guns.
Kinskey said the section of the law referred to by the judge was the result of a legislative error and would be corrected with the bill.
The bill would also specifically list “institutions of higher education” as being among the governmental entities that cannot adopt gun regulations more stringent than those adopted by the state.
Wyoming law is intended to give only the state government authority over regulating firearms, Kinskey said.
Terry Armitage, representing the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, agreed the uniformity in regulations provided by Kinskey’s bill is needed.
“Law enforcement doesn’t want to have to guess if they go to a college if there’s a different set of rules,” he said.
The bill was approved despite arguments from community college officials that they need the authority to regulate firearms on their campuses.
“(If) you pass this bill, it will impact our ability to do the state’s work of educating our citizens,” said Joe Schaffer, president of Laramie County Community College. “Can I tell you exactly what that means or how it will play out? No. But we have all the anecdotes and examples across other states and other communities.”
Erin Taylor, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Community College trustees, said trustees from all seven of the state’s community colleges are opposed to the legislation.
“They want to have the ability to make those decisions locally,” she said. “There are situations on a community college campus where it is not ideal to have a weapon involved.”
Kinskey said his legislation is a “backup” to Senate File 67, another bill he is sponsoring that would eliminate “gun-free zones” around the state and allow people to carry concealed weapons on public property including schools.
He added he expects no action on SF137 unless SF67 is killed.
SF67 is awaiting its first full review on the Senate floor.