Explosive Testimony: Aggressive ATF Agents Raided Wyoming Man's Home For Firearms

Last November, ATF agents dragged a Wyoming man from his house in his underwear even as he was screaming that he had a certificate authorizing him to possess firearms, a gun rights advocate told legislators on Tuesday.

Mark Heinz

February 20, 20245 min read

Mark Jones, National Director with Gun Owners of America testifies at the Senate Agriculture Committee Meeting on Feb. 19, 2024.
Mark Jones, National Director with Gun Owners of America testifies at the Senate Agriculture Committee Meeting on Feb. 19, 2024. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

The Wyoming Legislature meant well when it decided to reinstate the firearms rights of nonviolent felons last year, but that could have led to a couple’s terrifying experience with federal agents, a gun rights advocate told legislators.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) aggressively raided a Wyoming couple’s home in November, Gun Owners of America spokesman Mark Jones testified during a Tuesday meeting of the Senate Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee.

Agents forcibly dragged the man from his house in his underwear, even as he was screaming that he had a certificate authorizing him to possess firearms, Jones said.

‘I Have A Certificate!’

The raid was apparently under the auspices that the man was in illegal possession of firearms because of a nonviolent federal drug charge conviction 20 years prior, said Jones, who didn’t disclose the couple’s names or the location of their home.

“They (ATF agents) came full bore, with automatic weapons, drones, the whole 9 yards,” Jones told members of the committee. He was offering testimony about Senate File 73, which would restore the rights of nonviolent to obtain concealed carry firearms permits in Wyoming.

The committee voted to forward SF 73 to the Senate.

During the raid, agents dragged the man out of the house and kept him in a vehicle for hours, Jones said.

“And this individual was screaming, ‘I have a certificate sighed by the governor of Wyoming! I have a certificate sighed by the governor of Wyoming! Let me show you my certificate! Let me show you my certificate!’” Jones said.

“He was finally allowed to show ATF that certificate. This individual and his significant other are currently engaged in a legal battle with the ATF that hasn’t been resolved,” Jones said, adding that they have two attorneys, including one provided by GOA.

Even though the woman had no criminal history, agents seized her firearms along with the man’s, Jones said.

Clearing Up Concealed Carry

The Legislature passed a measure last year allowing the restoration of rights — including the right to possess firearms — to people convicted of one-time, nonviolent felonies under Wyoming law.

Under that measure, those people are allowed to legally possess firearms five years after the completion of any jail or prison sentence, probation and parole connected to their cases.

SF 73 is intended to clear up ambiguity regarding those people’s right to carry concealed firearms, bill sponsor Sen. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, told the committee.

Wyoming is a “constitutional carry” state, meaning no permit is required to carry a concealed weapon here, Barlow said. However, nonviolent felons are still barred from applying for concealed carry permits.

That makes it confusing to determine whether those people actually have a right to carry concealed guns.

“This dichotomy creates a challenge, as you are able to carry constitutionally, but not with a permit. What we’re trying to do with this bill is rectify that,” Barlow said. “If your rights are restored, you will be eligible for a concealed firearms permit that is issued through our attorney general’s office or DCI (Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation) and have the full rights that you would have had (without the prior conviction).”

He said the Wyoming statutes relate to Wyoming convictions. Prior federal convictions could be another matter.

As things stand, only the governor can reinstate someone’s firearms rights after a federal conviction, Barlow said.

‘Unintended Consequences’

Jones said the Legislature should be cautious about bringing “unintended consequences” upon Wyoming residents, by possibly restoring firearms rights that the federal government might not recognize.

For instance, the ATF recently sent out a letter to licensed Wyoming gun dealers stating that despite the state’s restoration of rights, dealers still can’t legally sell firearms to people who lost their gun rights because of federal convictions.

Jones shared the text of the ATF’s letter to Wyoming gun dealers with Cowboy State Daily. It states in part that:

“The purpose of this alert is to advise you that ATF has become aware that a Restoration of Rights Certificate from your state has been issued to certain prohibited individuals. The certificate purports to restore an individual’s firearm rights, which were lost because of a federal court conviction. ATF is in the process of notifying those affected individuals, by letter, that the Restoration of Rights certificate issued by the State of Wyoming DOES NOT restore their rights to possess firearms and/or ammunition under federal law.”

That means Wyoming gun dealers must be careful about who they sell firearms or ammunition to, according to the letter.

“ATF is further notifying affected individuals that the State of Wyoming does not have the authority to restore firearm rights that have been lost due to a federal conviction. Please be advised, affected individuals are still prohibited under federal law from possessing firearms and/or ammunition, and are disqualified from any over-the-counter firearm transactions,” the agency’s letter states.

“That may explain the (ATF) raid that happened in November, I don’t know,” Jones told legislators.

Discrepancies between federal and state firearms rights restoration are being worked out on the national level, Barlow said, and because SF 73 is specific to convictions under Wyoming law, it shouldn’t put the state at odds with federal regulations.

Mark Heinz can be reached at mark@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter