Sweeping new gun control measures in Washington state make Adam Weatherby all the more thankful his company set up shop in Sheridan.
His company can’t be sued in Wyoming for “negligent” firearms purchases. But under a new law in Washington, it could have been subjected to those lawsuits in that state.
“When other states pass laws like this, it’s a good reminder to me of why we chose Wyoming,” Weatherby, who is the president of Weatherby Inc., told Cowboy State Daily. “We’re thankful to be in a state like Wyoming that upholds the Second Amendment and allows us to not only keep and bear arms as citizens, but to be a gun manufacturer that continues to be able to produce firearms.”
Even so, some Wyoming gun owners said they’re concerned about the wider implications of Washington’s new gun control laws, which include an “assault weapons” ban.
“I’m always concerned,” Bob Berry of Cody told Cowboy State Daily.
“Do I think it’s going to happen (in Wyoming) soon? No. But they’re going to going to keep running that play until they get it right,” he said. “I don’t give a flip about what happens somewhere else. Leave me alone with your ridiculous unconstitutional legislation.”
Washington Gun Companies Open To Lawsuits
Weatherby Inc. is best known for its premier magnum-caliber hunting rifles and opened a facility in Sheridan in 2019. Weatherby said his company was welcomed to Wyoming with “wide open arms,” and the situation in Washington and other states makes him grateful to be here.
Washington became less welcoming to firearms this week with the passage of its assault weapons ban and a mandatory 10-day waiting period for firearms.
There is also a new law allowing the state attorney general or private citizens to sue gun manufacturers or dealers under “public nuisance laws.”
That means gunmakers or dealers in Washington can face lawsuits if they allegedly allow negligent sales to minors or “straw purchases.” A straw purchase is when somebody buys a firearm for another person who isn’t legally allowed to have one, such as a minor or a convicted felon.
Vince Vanata of Cody, a gun owner and avid hunter, said the new laws in Washington don’t come as much of a shock.
“They did take some dramatic steps, but in a very leftist state like Washington, it’s not surprising,” Vanata, a retired Marine and law enforcement officer, told Cowboy State Daily.
He added that he spoke with some friends in Washington who aren’t at all pleased with that turn of events.
“They’re at the point where they say they’re done with Washington,” Vanata said. “They can’t live there anymore. This is the straw that’s breaking the camel’s back.”
Washington and other states have taken an “incremental” approach to dismantling gun rights, Vanata said.
“This is an incremental approach they’re taking toward gun registration, then confiscation,” he said.
Could It Happen Here?
Berry said that with so many gun owners in Wyoming, it would be difficult, though not impossible, to get restrictive laws like the ones just passed in Washington on the books here.
“We’ve got an awful lot of people in this state who pay attention,” he said.
Vanata said he’s not so sure.
“Nothing is surprising me anymore. We live in a very strange time right now,” he said. “We’re seeing things in this state we’d never thought we’d see, like a member of our Legislature suggesting a mobilization of Antifa on people who question transgenderism.”
He was referring to a recent controversy that erupted over a social media post shared by state Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, that some claimed called for violence against social conservatives.
Provenza apologized for the post, and said it was actually intended to be supportive of the Second Amendment and the right of LGBTQ people to arm themselves against possible violent attacks.
Wyomingites should make sure their legislators aren’t just paying lip service to the Second Amendment, Mark Jones of Buffalo, a spokesman and lobbyist for Gun Owners of America, told Cowboy State Daily.
“The 2024 legislative session is going to require vigilance to ensure we don’t see infringements” like the ones in Washington,” he said. “Every politician in Wyoming claims to be pro-Second Amendment, but the reality is that some only use the Second Amendment as a political weapon.”
Berry and Vanata said they take umbrage at the use of the term “assault weapon,” which they think is vague rhetoric used to push gun control.
“It’s all bogus,” Berry said. “There is no such thing as an ‘assault rifle.’ That term has been made up by politicians and the media.”
The new Washington law classifies AR-15s, semi-automatic civilian versions of the AK-47 and dozens of other similar firearms as “assault weapons” under its ban. Under the new law, people who already own such firearms may keep them, but no more sales of them will be allowed.
Vanata agreed that “assault weapon” is too vague a term to have any real meaning, but instead is being used to punish responsible gun owners.
A better approach would be to use existing gun laws to punish people who use any firearms for nefarious purposes, he said.
“How many more laws do we need on the books when it comes to firearms? We have a plethora of laws on the books regarding firearms,” he said. “But when we look at these states where people are committing crimes with firearms, and they’re not being held accountable.”
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.