Tom Lubnau: Why Did The Senate Pass A Gun Bill It Knew Was Defective?

Columnist Tom Lubnau writes, "Why, on such an important issue, did the Senate shirk its duties to pass the best bill forward to the governor?  Why did the Senate want to force the governor to veto the Gun Free Zones bill?"

Tom Lubnau

March 27, 202411 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The question becomes why did the Wyoming legislature send a bill with several defects to the Wyoming governor for signature?  

Why, on such an important issue, did the Senate shirk its duties to pass the best bill forward to the governor?  Why did the Senate want to force the governor to veto the Gun Free Zones bill?

While these possible explanations are merely opinions, one has to wonder why this bill was passed the way it was.

One can suspect the Wyoming Legislature knows the governor’s penchant for being the adult in the room.  

The legislature should have known, when it passed this defective piece of legislation, the governor would veto it.  

While only the bill sponsors, the gun rights lobby, and the individual senators know the real reasons this defective bill was sent to the governor for signature, several theories exist as to why this bill was forwarded and ultimately vetoed.

Simple Laziness

One theory is the bulk of the legislators are simply not doing their jobs. This theory posits that legislators are more interested in sharing their bombastic opinions on issues than doing the real work of crafting the language of a  law that makes sense.

Instead of passing laws with language that makes sense, the lazy legislator votes on philosophy of the bill, without caring what the new proposed actually says.  

While philosophies are important, the work of a legislator is drafting laws – laws that do not have unintended consequences.   If one doesn’t read the bills, understand how the language of the bills interacts with other provisions of law and fits within the scheme of the constitution, then the legislator is not doing the job.

Read the text of this bill.  It can be found here Read the bill and decide if you know definitively what it says.  Laws should be written in such a way that anyone who reads it knows what the law means.

It is easy to agree with the philosophy of this bill. Trained people should be able to carry weapons to defend themselves.  It is a little harder to draft understandable bill language.

As with any piece of legislation, the devil is in the details.  

Vote As Instructed

Another theory, not proven, is certain legislators receive an email or text message every morning instructing them how to vote. We will never know if this rumor is true, because the Wyoming legislature exempts itself from the Freedom of Information Act.   

If true, legislators voting as instructed is a frightening attack on our legislative institution. If the votes are graded and PAC money awarded based on instructed votes, it is potentially a crime.

Our system was designed so every individual legislator looked at the language of the bill, ensured the language was clear, and unintended consequences of sloppy language were removed from the bill. Voting as instructed removes the discretion of the individual legislator and is a vehicle for poor legislation.

We elected each and every legislator for their ability to read, review and understand the laws.  If they cede their vote to someone who sends out an email early in the morning, they are ceding their legislative discretion to a third party.

Fear Of The Gun Rights Lobby

Gun ownership and firearms rights are a religion in Wyoming.  According to CBS News, 66.2 percent of Wyoming citizens own a firearm, closely behind Montana at 66.3 percent.  (I don’t believe these figures, because I believe that when surveyors ask if there is a firearm in the home many of the respondents lie so no one knows if there is a firearm or not.)  

A betting person might argue the true figure is somewhere north of eighty percent.  A law enforcement friend of mine told me once, that they assume that one hundred percent of vehicles carrying Steamboat bucking horse plates have a firearm in them.  

It is no coincidence that firearms rights bills show up in the abbreviated budget session.  The budget session is held in the same year as the elections.   It may be, legislators know if they vote against poor language in a gun rights bill, they will be the subject of cheesy videos, bulk emails and inflammatory mailers telling the voting public that legislator is against Second Amendment rights.   

In the eyes of some gun rights lobbyists, it appears there is no distinction between voting against a bill with a good philosophy with dumb language and voting against a well-written gun rights bill.  Any attempt to fix a bill is met with gun-grabbing propaganda aimed at attacking the person who tries to modify the bill.

It takes a level of courage and integrity to stand up to certain of the powerful gun rights lobby and point out their tactics. Perhaps, some legislators do not have that type of courage. Instead of working to tell their constituents the truth, those legislators duck the issue by voting for the bill.

Removal Of The Competent And Replacement With The Weak

Competent legislators read the bills. If there are defects in the bills, they work to fix them. Perhaps, gun rights bills are also used as a tool to remove legislators who read the language of the bill.  

Imagine a scenario where a defective firearms rights bill is intentionally proposed. Then, a competent legislator proposes amendments to fix the bill.  

Suddenly, at the next election, the legislator is faced with dishonest attacks for trying to fix the bill. The legislative candidate is labeled as gun grabber for their attempts to make the bill clearer.  

The voters, despising gun grabbers, replace the competent legislator with one beholden to the gun rights lobby.   Is such a scenario possible?  Wait until the next election to judge.

There are those who know the bill is defective, but fearing the ire of the gun lobby, vote for it anyway. By ducking the issue, legislators can go about campaigning as firearms rights advocatesin peace, knowing they put a defective piece of legislation in the governor’s lap.

Keeping The Gun Rights Lobby Profitable

Is it possible intentionally defective bills are proposed to create a profit center for the gun rights lobby?  Firearms right lobbying is a big deal in Wyoming.  

Another theory is the lobby supplies an intentionally defective bill, knowing some responsible legislator will try and fix it, the governor will veto it, or the courts will strike it down.   

Pointing out the defects in the bill makes that person a target. Understanding the operation of a bill is complicated. Most people rely on sound bites.  Some people take advantage of our desire for simple explanations. Understanding the nuances of a bill is hard work.  

If one doesn’t understand the nuances, it is easy believe the sound bite labeling someone as a gun grabber when the truth is that person was only trying to fix the bill.

A purported gun grabber is cast in the role of an enemy.  

And, if there is an enemy, it is easy to ask for funds to carry out the mission of removing the enemy.   It’s funny how, at the bottom a bulk of attack emails calling people names, there is usually a phrase like “If you want your rights preserved, send us your hard-earned money.”

While is impossible to know if the gun rights lobby proposed intentionally defective bills as a profit-making scheme, it is something to think about.

Weakening A Political Opponent

Perhaps the most nefarious theory of why a defective bill is forwarded is to weaken a political enemy.

If someone has designs on a higher office, what better way to weaken the opponent in Wyomingthan to have the opponent being against the Second Amendment?  

If one is planning on running for office, what better way to get free publicity than to pass a bad bill, get a veto, and then issue press releases demanding a special session?

There are no question Gov. Gordon supports firearm rights. He said so in his veto letter. He signed four other Second Amendment friendly bills.

But understanding the nuances of the language of bills is hard. Most news consumers, and for that matter, news organizations simply say, “The governor vetoed the Gun Free Zones Bill.” The reasons why are technical and difficult.  In our busy lives, it is easier to tag someone as a gun foe than to understand the implications of the language of a bill.

Those that seek to manipulate us understand this reality.

The reaction on social media to the Cowboy State Daily article about the Gordon veto was immediate.  

Some supported Gov. Gordon. Others said, “Goodbye Mark.”, “Gordon has to go!  No liars in Wyoming politics,” and “Gordon is a global pandering parasite POS.”  None of the comments talked about the language of the bill or the reasons for the veto.

Gov. Gordon can be in favor of removing gun free zones, while being opposed to poorly worded legislation coming to his desk.  It is not a violation of his campaign promise to make sure legislation does what it says it is going to do, while protecting our constitutional rights in the process.

While opinion only, because we will never know for sure, there is a theory legislators sent him the intentionally defective bill.  They knew, being the adult in state government, the governor would veto the bill.  

In vetoing the gun free zones bill, he would be weakened by angering a segment of the population who does not care whether that the bill contained crappy unconstitutional language or not, as long as it had a nice Second Amendment title.  

For the rest of his career, he would be known as the governor who was against the Second Amendment.  

So, those politicians, perhaps with aims on higher office, get publicity by issuing press releases calling for special sessions and allying themselves with the gun lobby for a future campaign.  Imagine that.

The Upshot Of This Speculation

If these theories are true, and we, as an electorate, allow ourselves to be manipulated, we get what we deserve.

Wyoming voters are going to have to decide if they consent to be manipulated Machiavellian political tactics, if they exist.

Things are never as simple as people who want your money, or your support want you to believe they are.  Until we cut through the political nonsense, we get the elected officials we deserve.

A Note On Special Sessions

The State of Wyoming held special sessions in 2003, 2020 and 2021.   

In 2003, the legislature had a special session to discuss tort reform.  Nothing substantive came out of that special session.

In 2020, the legislature held a special session to address the COVID crisis. The legislature appropriated federal COVID relief dollars and passed some minor bills dealing with administration of the COVID crisis.

In 2021, the legislature held a special session to address federal COVID overreach.  Forty-one bills were proposed and discussed.   

The legislators did a lot of caterwauling and grandstanding.  Lots of sound bites were sent out to the media.

At the end, of the forty-one bills proposed, only one passed. It essentially flipped the bird at the federal government but did nothing substantive.

If the legislature is going to get together for a press release opportunity, and to pass the same bill, save the money.


The Wyoming voters are wise to the political games, and they are starting to get tired of the legislative grandstanding and demagogy.   

If there is an inkling of truth to these theories, prepare to see and hear a flurry of press releases, emails and videos claiming, “It wasn’t us. The RINO’s did it.”

Tom Lubnau served in the Wyoming Legislature from 2005 - 2015 and is a former Speaker of the House.

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Tom Lubnau