A Wyoming legislator is warning that the state shouldn’t take a dime of federal money earmarked for “red flag” gun seizure laws because it could cost Wyomingites their due process rights.
“I don’t care if it’s a dollar or $20 million, Wyoming shouldn’t take that money,” Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, told Cowboy State daily.
“This is a preemptive bill,” he added, explaining why he’s sponsoring legislation that would prohibit Wyoming from taking any federal red flag gun law money.
The latest session of the Wyoming Legislature kicked off Monday. Since it’s a budget session, bills need a two-thirds majority approval to get introduced.
‘Firearms Confiscated On Hearsay’
Red flag laws are intended to help prevent gun violence. They allow a court-ordered temporary confiscation of a person’s firearms — if that person allegedly poses a danger to themselves or others.
Jennings said he acknowledges the need to confiscate firearms in some instances, such when somebody is going through a mental health crisis.
However, he takes issue with the federal red flag laws because, as he sees it, they take away peoples’ right to appear in court and dispute the seizure before a judge.
That opens the door to people reporting their neighbors to law enforcement and guns being seized arbitrarily, Jennings said.
“You can’t get a neighbor’s firearms confiscated on hearsay,” he said. “You should be able to go before a judge to dispute it. It can’t be done without due process.”
‘We’re Working With Sheriffs And Police Chiefs’
If a sheriff’s office or police department receives a tip that a person who has firearms could be a danger to themselves or others, law enforcement officers should be able to follow up on that, Jennings said.
But, to protect Second Amendment rights, no action should be taken until there’s a hearing before a judge with all parties involved, he said.
He thinks Wyoming can pass legislation rejecting federal funding, and the strings that come with it. At the same time, the bill can be implemented in a manner that would still allow Wyoming law enforcement officers to defuse dangerous situations.
Officers should be able to investigate potentially dangerous situations and, after a proper court hearing and due process, confiscate firearms when it’s necessary to prevent a tragedy, Jennings said.
“We’re working with sheriffs and police chiefs to make sure we’re not stepping on things for them,” he said. “We have no intentions of stopping law enforcement from doing what they need to do in some instances, but it has to be done according to due process.”
When asked about his hopes for the bill, Jennings said he isn’t optimistic it will pass given the political climate as he perceives it.
“The leadership in the (Wyoming Legislature’s) House is pretty liberal, for the most part,” he said. “I’m not optimistic, but I’m doing what I can to protect my constituents’ Second Amendment rights.”
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.