Now is the time for Wyoming to shore up its gun rights – not only for those who live in the Cowboy State, but to solidify its place as a haven for companies that make firearms and accessories, says Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland.
As a truly gun-friendly state for manufacturers and gun owners, “We’re the last hope,” Haroldson told Cowboy State Daily.
He said that’s a big reason why some key gun-related bills are coming before the Wyoming Legislature this year.
Haroldson is the primary sponsor of one of those, House Bill 105, which would eliminate “gun-free” zones in many Wyoming public spaces.
It has yet to be considered by a legislative committee.
Also of note is Senate File 116, which passed the Wyoming Senate this week. It would protect gun makers and sellers from lawsuits.
Public K-12 schools would be one area the “gun-free zones” bill addresses.
Most schools in Wyoming don’t allow firearms on their grounds. Haroldson said he would like to see school staff have the option of training and arming themselves against possible assailants, something some school districts already are allowing.
He referenced the May 2022 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. That mass shooting became a flashpoint in the debate over whether to arm school staff. Police there were widely criticized for lingering in a hallway while the murderer continued to shoot children inside a classroom.
“The discussion has to be brought forward,” he said. “We saw a horrendous and horrible situation take place (in Uvalde). I think if that had been a hardened school with firearms in the hands of trained staff, it would have been a different situation.”
The bill to protect gun makers in Wyoming from lawsuits could lead to more economic opportunity, Haroldson said.
“I think we are watching a higher bombardment on our gun rights from the federal government,” he said, adding that some gun makers have already faced lawsuits.
Early last year, some of the families of children killed in the Sandy Hook school massacre settled a lawsuit with Remington for $73 million. Remington made the Bushmaster XM15-E2s rifle used by the shooter in the 2012 killings in Newton, Connecticut.
Firearms rights also are eroding elsewhere, Haroldson said.
The ATF recently announced its intent to classify AR-15 pistols and similar firearms outfitted with pistol braces as “short-barreled rifles.” Under the 1934 National Firearms Acts, short-barreled rifles are subject to stiffer regulation and $200 tax stamps.
And in Oregon, there’s been pushback against a measure that would ban firearms magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds, as well as requiring permits and mandatory training for gun owners.
Wyoming should signal to gun makers that the state is good for business, and thereby attract more companies that make firearms and parts and accessories for guns, Haroldson said.
“We want to make it clear that (moving toward tighter regulation) isn’t the case in Wyoming, and it never will be the case in Wyoming,” he said.
The Timing Is Right
Along with changes on the national scene, the 2023 Legislature is ripe for introducing firearms-related legislation because it isn’t a budgetary session, Haroldson said.
“In a budgetary session, it takes a two-thirds majority to introduce a bill, and that lengthens the legislative process and limits the number of bills that can be introduced,” he said.
The makeup of the 2023 Legislature also should help get gun-related bills passed, Haroldson added.
“We have a large freshman class of legislators,” he said. “These concerns over gun rights are matters that their constituents want to see addressed.”