State Senators Get Heated Following Contentious Debate On Gun Bill

in News/Legislature

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*Editor’s note: The story has since been updated. Sen. Driskill has apologized for the incident with Sen. James.

By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Two lawmakers were involved Tuesday evening in what some are describing as an altercation involving pushing on the Senate floor following a heated debate regarding a gun bill.  

State Sen. Tom James, R-Green River, on Wednesday confirmed to Cowboy State Daily that he and Majority Floor Leader Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, were involved in an incident on the floor after debate on Senate Floor 102, the “Second Amendment Protection Act.”  

However, James said he would not comment further until he obtained video footage of the incident, which was recorded but not streamed live to the public on YouTube. Video streams from both the House and Senate generally stop when official work in the chambers is completed at noon or evening recess.

The lawmaking session had just ended for the day when the altercation was reported to have occurred.  

In a text message to Cowboy State Daily, Driskill disputed that there was an “altercation” and said he would return a phone call for comment after a break from Senate floor action Wednesday.

Floor Fireworks

The Wyoming Senate had just approved, on its first reading, a gun rights bill sponsored by Senate Vice President Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, that Hicks called “constitutionally sound.” The bill would prohibit Wyoming government agencies from using state resources to enforce federal gun restrictions that are seen as an improper infringement on Second Amendment rights.

State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, spoke against the bill, calling it a mere re-working of the Wyoming Firearms Freedom Act, which forbids gun commerce enforcement against individuals with Wyoming-made, Wyoming-marketed firearms.  

Bouchard said he was denied the chance to testify on the bill when it was discussed by a Senate committee.

“I wanted to speak in committee and that got shut down pretty quick,” said Bouchard during the discussion.  

But other senators, including Driskill, objected to Bouchard’s statement.

“You need to stick to the facts,” countered Driskill.  

“That is the facts,” said Bouchard. “The facts are, I was not allowed to speak in committee.”  

At that point, James stood to speak.

“On that point of order,” he said, “our language in here is actually protected under Article 3, Section 16 (of the Wyoming Constitution), so technically he wasn’t out of order.”  

The portion of the Wyoming Constitution referenced by James states that legislators are not to be arrested during the lawmaking session or on the way to or from it, except in cases of “treason, felony, violation of their oath of office and breach of the peace.”  

Earlier That Day… 

There had been detectable tension between Driskill and James earlier that morning in the Senate Corporations, Elections, and Political Subdivisions Committee. James visited the committee as a guest presenter promoting his bill, Senate File 50, which would establish a hotline for public reporting of government fraud, waste, or abuse.  

The bill also would protect whistleblowers from workplace ramifications for any reporting of government misconduct.  

Driskill, who chairs the committee, pressured James multiple times to assign a dollar amount to the proposed law.  

“What do you think this bill should cost and where is that at?” asked Driskill.  

“It shouldn’t cost any more than a phone line and setting up an email,” answered James.  

“The suicide hotline is ($1.5 million),” said Driskill.  

James said that unlike the suicide hotline, his proposed system would not require constant monitoring. 

“Give me a number so I can get an amendment, and we can talk about your bill,” said Driskill.  

James said, “$10,000, maybe, at most.” 

“That solves it,” answered Driskill.  

But action on the bill was postponed until Thursday, because both the House and Senate floor sessions were about to start.

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