Resurrected Gun-Free Zones Bill Advances, With Guns In Dorms And Hospitals Still OK

A bill that would eliminate Wyoming’s gun-free zones passed its second reading before the state Senate on Wednesday and is one vote away from heading to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk.

Mark Heinz

March 06, 20246 min read

The Washakie Dinner Center and McIntyre Hall dorm on the University of Wyoming campus.
The Washakie Dinner Center and McIntyre Hall dorm on the University of Wyoming campus. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A bill that would eliminate Wyoming’s gun-free zones passed its second reading before the state Senate on Wednesday and is one vote away from heading to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk.

Along with approving the measure, the Senate also rejected amendments to House Bill 125 that would have allowed for restricting guns in college dorms and county-funded hospitals.

One condition of the bill is that firearms could be carried in those places, as well as other current gun-free zones, only in a concealed manner by people with concealed carry permits.

It was the latest leg of HB 125’s complicated journey through the Legislature.

After sailing through the House 54-7, HB 125 was killed late Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 3-2 vote. But then it was revived in the full Senate on Tuesday.

Fear Of Guns?

During impassioned testimony from both sides, some senators argued that students at community colleges and the University of Wyoming should have the right to be free of worry over their roommates keeping firearms.

It’s mandatory for UW students to stay in campus residence halls during their freshman year. So, allowing guns into the dorms would force students who aren’t comfortable with that to live with it, said Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie.

It would amount to “removing any right they have, any right whatsoever they have, to avoid living in a space with someone who has a weapon,” he said.

“Sleeping at night with somebody that they don’t even know that has a weapon — that we assert we all trust, that they could never do anything wrong, and that’s not consistent with my own experience on the University of Wyoming campus,” Rothfuss said. “But, that’s the assertion.”

Judiciary Committee member Sen. Dan Furphy R-Laramie, noted that during testimony before the committee late Monday, some UW students stated they wouldn’t be comfortable with their peers having guns in their dorm rooms.

But other senators stressed that policy shouldn’t be driven by a fear of guns.

“I just wonder where the fear of firearms is coming from,” said. Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne.

“I kind of wrote out a list of things that, if I’m afraid of a firearm, I also need to be afraid of: bottles, knives, forks, books, sticks, clubs, ropes, pens, pencils, box cutters, baseball bats, rulers, scissors, high-heel shoes, purses,” she said. “The list of weapons goes on and on.”

During later discussion about allowing firearms in hospitals, Sen. Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, responded to Hutchings’ comments, throwing in a bit of wry humor.

“I’m not afraid of the weapon. I’m not afraid of the high heels — well, I’m afraid of my wife’s high-heel shoe — but in general I’m not afraid of the fork,” he said. “I’m afraid of the people that use those for nefarious purposes.”

What About Rights, And Bad Guys?

The amendments would have given county hospital boards and the governing bodies at colleges and UW the authority to set whatever restrictions they deemed appropriate on firearms in dorms or hospitals.

It was mentioned during the debate that numerous other states already allow concealed carry permit holders to carry firearms on campuses.

But Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, who had a pervious career in higher education, said that all those states allow for colleges and universities to place restrictions on guns in dorms.

Other senators said that American citizens 18 or older should have full Second Amendment rights.

“Either we have Second Amendment rights for everyone or we don’t,” said Sen. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton.

“Eighteen-year-olds, they are responsible. We have them in the military. I stood with them for 27 years,” he added. “We give them M-16s to fight for our country. And you know what? They’re responsible. They are responsible people. They’ve proven it to our country throughout this history. Don’t take it away from them. Don’t take it away from them.”

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, said he was resentful that when his daughter attended UW, she wasn’t allowed to carry a firearm to protect herself.

Horrible things can and do happen to young women on campuses, he said. He referenced a grisly incident on a campus, saying a woman was attacked in a café by a man who decapitated her with a knife.

“I see some faces, some smirks out there,” he said. “This is what happens when people can’t protect themselves. Somebody can take a knife into a café and decapitate them, behead them.”

“If you’re scared of things, you should be scared of the bad guys,” Bouchard added.

Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, referenced the 2007 massacre on the Virgina Tech campus that left 33 dead as an example of gun restrictions not working.

“The highest-profile college campus shooting took place in a state that bans firearms and concealed carry on campus,” he said. “A policy, a procedure, a sign does not protect us.”

Guns In Hospitals

After the amendment to allow for restrictions on firearms in college dorms was rejected, Baldwin and Sen. Mike Gierau, D-Jackson, tried to no avail to defend the amendment that would have applied restrictions at public hospitals.

HB 125 would not lift firearms restrictions in mental health facilities or private hospitals and clinics.

With all the trauma and raw emotion that can be at play in a public hospital emergency room, it’s no place for guns, Gierau said.

“It’s a place of great tension, a place that can be a very emotional, very traumatizing place,” he said.

Baldwin said he used to work in hospital security, and said that of all places, the “OB section” was one to which he was frequently called for disturbances.

He also recalled one hospital staff member carrying a firearm, which he said greatly upset some of the other staff.

Unfounded Fears?

Summing up support for HB 125, without further amendments, Bouchard said detractors were bringing forth similar unfounded worries that were cited years ago when Wyoming opted for “constitutional carry.”

That means in many places in the state, people may carry firearms — openly or concealed — without a permit.

Many at that time predicted a surge in violence, but it hasn’t happened, Bouchard said.

“These are the same arguments that they used on constitutional carry,” he said. “There are not things happening, scary things, since we made it a constitutional carry state.”

Mark Heinz can be reached at

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter