Only Two Wyoming House Republicans Opposed Bill To Eliminate Gun-Free Zones

A bill to eliminate gun-free zones passed by a massive 54 - 7 margin on Tuesday with only two Republicans voting against it. One said he opposed it because a school district should have the right to decide while another wouldn't return calls or emails to explain his position.

MH
Mark Heinz

February 28, 20244 min read

Mix Collage 28 Feb 2024 04 32 PM 6254

A vote over a bill that would eliminate Wyoming’s gun-free zones split along party lines in the House as all five Democrats and only two Republicans opposed it.

House Bill 125 handily passed its third reading before the Wyoming House late Tuesday on a vote of 54-7 with 1 excused. Cheyenne Reps. Bob Nicholas and Bill Henderson were the only Republicans casing “nay” votes.

On Wednesday, the measure passed introduction into the Senate and was referred to the Senate’s Judiciary Committee.

Dissenting Republicans

Calls and messages to Henderson weren’t returned by publication time on Wednesday.

Cowboy State Daily reached Nicholas only briefly early Wednesday during a House floor session, when he said he couldn’t discuss his decision in detail.

He said he stood by remarks he made Monday during a debate on proposed amendments to the bill, which encapsulated his opposition.

He didn’t participate in the final House discussion and debate over the bill Tuesday.

Law Works As It Is

From Nicholas’ perspective, HB 125 would take away the choice of Wyoming’s school districts by imposing only a certain position on gun rights.

Many proponents of the bill have argued that it’s a matter of fully supporting Wyoming residents’ Second Amendment Rights.

However, Wyoming’s current policies have already settled that matter, Nicholas argued during his remarks on the House floor.

The state many years ago decided to allow either open or concealed carry of firearms, with no permit required. However, private business and property owners, as well as entities such as schools, retained the right to forbid firearms on their premises.

And that’s a fair balance, Nicholas argued.

“How you administer and how you interpret the right to bear arms can be modified, and has been modified in public places and in certain locations,” he said. “This is not a battle about enforcing a mandatory constitutional right.”

‘Imposing A Political Perspective’

However, HB 125 would impose a different perspective, he said, taking that legitimate choice away from school districts.

“It takes a certain position, a certain political position that is being espoused by this bill and imposing it over every school district in Wyoming and saying, ‘We’re going to decide this, you can’t,’” he said.

That runs counter to Wyoming’s tradition as a “wonderful right-to-choose, local control state,” Nicholas said.

“We should let the local folks control what they believe and follow the law the way it’s been interpreted, and not your interpretation of it just because you want to carry guns everywhere,” he added.

Safeguards Built In

The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Jeremey Haroldson, R-Wheatland, and other supporters have argued that it won’t lead to a dangerous and irresponsible free-for-all.

After his bill’s success Tuesday, Haroldson told Cowboy State Daily that, for instance, guns could still be forbidden in certain places and under certain circumstances, such as University of Wyoming sporting events where alcohol is served.

And in order to comply with federal firearms regulations, only people with concealed carry permits would be able to carry concealed firearms on public school grounds, he added.

The bill also would allow only concealed carry in government buildings, such as the Wyoming Capitol. That would prevent openly displayed firearms from possibly being used for political intimidation, which Haroldson said he adamantly opposes.

Private property owners and private businesses would still have the right to ban firearms on their premises, he said.

As Haroldson and other supporters of the bill see it, the scope of Wyomingites’ Second Amendment rights shouldn’t be determined by school districts or other public entities.

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

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MH

Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter