“Second Amendment Protection Act” Clears House By 43 – 15 Margin

Opponents of the bill said it provides no actual protection of Second Amendment rights. "It says one branch of government is going to hold the other branch accountable and that fails every time," said Rep. Robert Wharff (R-Evanston).

Jim Angell

March 10, 20223 min read

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A bill aimed at prohibiting Wyoming law enforcement officers from enforcing unconstitutional restrictions on Second Amendment rights won final approval from the House on Wednesday.

Representatives voted 43-15 to approve Senate File 102, the “Second Amendment Protection Act” in its final House review

Defenders of the bill debated opponents who maintained the bill should be killed because it was weaker than one considered and rejected earlier in the session.

“I, for one, would like my constituents to have something rather than nothing,” said Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette. “When we say it’s a weak bill, but we’re willing to go with no protection at all, which is weaker?”

SF102 would prohibit any Wyoming law enforcement agent from enforcing unconstitutional federal restrictions on the Second Amendment. If an unconstitutional federal rule was enforced, the enforcing officer could face one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

The bill had been roundly criticized by backers of another gun rights bill, SF87, the “Second Amendment Preservation Act.” The bill, which failed to win introduction early in the session, would have allowed citizens to sue officials they felt were responsible for enforcing unconstitutional barriers to the Second Amendment, including increases in taxes and fees on ammunition.

Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell, tried to amend SF102 to essentially replace it with SF87, but the attempt was ruled out of order by House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, because of procedural rules he said would prohibit the consideration of the same bill twice in one session.

But opponents of SF102 said it provided no actual protection for Second Amendment rights.

“SF102 is weak at best,” said. Rep. Bill Fortner, R-Gillette. “Do we want a bill that’s got teeth in it to … put us first or do we want a weak bill that does nothing to protect us?

SF102 had the support of Wyoming’s law enforcement officers, who opposed SF87 and one like it introduced and rejected in 2021 because it allowed them to be sued if they enforced a law someone considered unconstitutional.

“The reason being they thought police officers and sheriffs, all the law enforcement should have an upper hand to control we the people,” Fortner said.

Opponents also argued the bill would require action by one branch of government against another.

“SF102 says one branch of government is going to hold the other branch accountable,” said Rep. Robert Wharff, R-Evanston. “And that fails every time.”

However, the bill’s backers objected to the description of Wyoming’s law enforcement officers as wishing to maintain the “upper hand” over individuals.

“They do care about our rights,” Bear said. “They protect them every single day. It’s a mischaracterization to say they think they are above us. We need to be careful we don’t become like the crowd that wants to defund the police.”

The Senate will now be asked to approve any House changes to the bill. If the two chambers agree to the changes, the bill will be sent to Gov. Mark Gordon for his signature.

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Jim Angell