By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A veteran Wyoming law enforcement officer is the latest target for a vocal gun rights group.
Byron Oedekoven, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, drew the scorn of the Wyoming Gun Owners by opposing several measures proposed by gun rights advocates in the Legislature’s recent general session.
“There has never been a pro-gun bill that Byron Oedekoven did not oppose,” Aaron Dorr, WyGO’s political director, said in an April 1 post on the group’s Facebook page. “This guy is a cancer on the Second Amendment here in Wyoming.”
Dorr also called Oedekoven a “spindly little weasel” and repeated a theme often heard on WyGO’s Facebook posts that the former sheriff is a foe of Second Amendment rights.
But Oedekoven, a law enforcement officer for almost 30 years, denied Dorr’s allegations, noting that in 1995, he signed an “amicus brief” on behalf of what was then the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs challenging the validity of the federal “Brady Bill” gun control measure.
“My personal record shows I have been incredibly strong for the Second Amendment, and for them to describe it otherwise is a total disregard for the truth,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “It would be interesting to question what their actual motive was in stirring up this level of controversy.”
At issue is Oedekoven’s work on behalf of WASCOP to fix problems the group saw with several bills, primarily the “Second Amendment Preservation Act” offered by Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, a former executive director of WyGO. The bill was approved in an amended form by Wyoming’s Senate, but never taken up by the House.
The bill as originally written would have allowed Wyoming to declare as null and void any federal regulations seen as an infringement on the Second Amendment, including tax laws and registration rules.
The bill would also have forbidden police officers from seizing weapons under federal laws considered null and void and would have made any officer seizing a weapon under those federal laws subject to $50,000 in civil damages.
Similar bills are being considered in a number of other states. In Montana, a bill that would have banned the enforcement of new federal gun regulations was tabled. In Missouri, where proponents amended the bill to add the $50,000 in civil damages, the bill is awaiting Senate review.
Both WASCOP and the Wyoming Prosecuting Attorneys Association opposed the bill in Wyoming, in part because of the restrictions it would have put on police.
“They tried to say you couldn’t disarm a person who … hadn’t been found guilty yet,” Oedekoven said. “Then the question became what do you do with guns from bank robbers, child molesters and human traffickers who are not convicted felons and are in possession of firearms?”
WASCOP also objected to the bill’s removal of “qualified immunity,” which gives police offices and other public officials broad immunity from civil lawsuits for actions taken within their duties.
The state’s 23 sheriffs wrote a letter to legislators explaining their opposition to the bill while expressing their support for Second Amendment rights.
“The Wyoming Sheriff’s Association, collectively and individually, hold the United States and Wyoming Constitutions in the highest regard,” it said. “We, the Wyoming Sheriffs, respectfully request that the Wyoming Legislature seek laws that allow us to perform our duties while still protecting the law-abiding citizen’s right to keep and bear arms, which we hold as an absolute.”
Joseph Baron, representing the Prosecuting Attorneys Association, compared the bill’s language to that found in what he called “anti-law enforcement laws” championed by congressional Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Several of those testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 17 also noted that states lack the authority to simply declare a federal law or rule null and void.
WASCOP worked with lawmakers on an amendment to the bill creating a process through which the governor could issue an executive order banning police from enforcing federal rules and laws the state’s attorney general found to be contrary to the Second Amendment. The move was seen as a way to prevent the improper enforcement of unconstitutional laws while allowing law enforcement officers the flexibility to seize weapons when warranted.
“Our position was to stand strong on the Second Amendment and to assist where we could in developing strong language that would work well for law enforcement,” Oedekoven said.
Oedekoven’s work on the bill earned him the title of a “taxpayer funded anti-gun lobbyist” from WyGO, and visitors to the group’s page posted negative comments, with one suggesting he “needs to be taken out to the back 40.”
But Dorr, WyGO’s only registered lobbyist, did not argue in favor of the bill in the Judiciary Committee. Nor did he appear via video link to testify on the bill before the committee.
He did post several videos of himself on the group’s Facebook page talking about the bill as he drove down a highway that did not appear to be in Wyoming.
Dorr suggested in his videos that Wyoming gun owners call their county commissioners and urge them to withdraw from WASCOP because of Oedekoven’s actions.
“Your tax dollars are paying for this anti-gun troll to work the Capitol and attack your gun rights,” he said. “If that burns your backside, talk to your county officials and tell them if your money is going to fund (WASCOP) dues, then that’s a problem and (they) better deal with that or we’ll find someone who will.”
Oedekoven said some of those commenting on Dorr’s video also suggested that Dorr’s supporter should confront Oedekoven at his home in Campbell County.
“I haven’t seen any of that yet,” he said. “I am a little concerned based on the rhetoric and misinformation they are putting forth.”
In the course of his videos, Dorr also referred to Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill as a “putz.” Dorr is entangled in a legal battle with the attorney general’s office over the alleged failure of WyGO to register as a political action committee during last year’s elections.
Dorr’s videos also featured him calling the majority of Wyoming’s legislators “spineless little cowards.”
“We don’t have a pro-gun Legislature,” he said. “We have a handful of incredibly pro-gun legislators.”
WyGO is one of a number of state gun rights advocates groups run by Dorr and his brothers, Chris and Ben.
WyGo regularly threatens to unseat elected officials who do not agree with its positions on gun issues. It led the charge in the 2020 primary election to remove Wyoming legislators it portrayed as weak on gun rights, including Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, and Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette, who were defeated in their re-election bids.
Nationally, the Dorr brothers have criticized the National Rifle Association as being too weak in its defense of Second Amendment rights.
The organization’s Wyoming office is listed on its website as a private mailbox at a Cheyenne shipping service. Its mailing address, according to filings with the secretary of state’s office, is also listed as the Carlsbad, California, office of Labyrinth Inc., a company that says it helps charities with their state registrations.
WyGO’s registered agent, a primary contact needed for every corporation that registers in Wyoming, is a company called “InCorp Services,” a Nevada-based company that offers its services as a registered agent for multiple corporations in multiple states.
A Cheyenne phone number listed on the group’s website rang through to a recording. The group did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s message or an email asking for an interview.
WyGO does not list the number of its members on its website, but its Facebook page has 33,245 followers.