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Wyoming Gun Owners

Sec. of State Buchanan Says State Will Challenge Wyoming Gun Owners (WyGO) Ruling

in WYGO/News
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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan is contesting a recent federal court ruling that allowed the firearms advocacy group Wyoming Gun Owners to keep a list of its contributors private.

Buchanan and the state attorney general’s office on Friday notified the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of the state’s intent to challenge the ruling narrowing the spectrum of entities that need to declare political campaign expenditures in the Cowboy State. 

In March, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl ruled the state could not force Wyoming Gun Owners to share the names of its donors. 

No arguments were made in the half-page appeal of Skavdahl’s ruling filed with the court in Denver. The secretary of state’s office declined to comment on the appeal.

“Go To Hell”

However, Aaron Dorr, policy advisor for Wyoming Gun Owners, said the appeal showed state officials are not paying attention to the wishes of their constituents.

“Ed Buchanan and the political elites in Cheyenne aren’t getting the message,” Dorr told Cowboy State Daily. “They didn’t listen when gun owners threw their anti-gun RINO (Republican In Name Only) friends out of office in 2020. They didn’t listen when Wyoming Gun Owners told them to go to hell when they demanded a list of our donors.”

Dorr said WyGO welcomes the chance to argue its case in appeals court.

“Maybe they’ll listen when we beat them again in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals,” Dorr said. “WyGO looks forward to the chance to invalidate this entire unconstitutional law to cast a much broader legal precedent.”

Ruling Sets Precedent

In an interview with Cowboy State Daily Monday morning, Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne) said the ruling sets a precedent for any charitable nonprofit organization that takes part in an election. He added Wyoming Gun Owners is being specifically targeted because it is a pro-gun rights group. 

Bouchard said the NAACP was targeted in a similar way during the civil rights movement of the late 1950s by the State of Alabama, and won its case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It’s not surprising in their quest for power,” Bouchard said of the state’s appeal. “They don’t want opposing opinions. They don’t want people to know what they’re doing. This doesn’t just affect gun owners. Want to have a list of people who contribute to a gun group? This is a gun registration.”

“Campaign Electioneering”

The action stems from to Buchanan’s determination that during the campaign of 2020, a $1,200 radio ad WyGO issued in support of Bouchard amounted to “campaign electioneering.”

The ad portrayed Bouchard as a champion of Second Amendment rights while calling his opponent for the state Senate, Erin Johnson, “pathetic” because she did not mention gun rights on her website.

Under state law, any group spending more than $500 on “electioneering communication” must report all contributions of $100 or more “related to” the communication.

Bouchard argued the advertisement did not qualify as “campaign electioneering” because it did not urge listeners to vote for or against either candidate.

But the state disagreed and decided WyGO had violated state election laws. The organization was fined $500 as a result.

WyGO paid the fine, but appealed the ruling to federal court, where Skavdahl ruled it would be too difficult to determine which contributions to WyGO were used to pay for political ads and which were used for other purposes.

“There is no way to determine, under the current statutory language, what goods, services, or promised expenditures are sufficiently ‘related to’ electioneering communications,” Skavdahl wrote. “Based upon its current language, the statute could also encompass many more, indirectly related expenditures.”

Unconstitutional

Skavdahl said the law itself was unconstitutional because of how vaguely it was written.

Bouchard said the secretary of state’s fine against WyGO, which he founded, showed the state is selectively enforcing its laws and selected WyGO as an easy target.

“There are all these pretend organizations that pop up behind registered agents,” he said. “Nobody investigates them. Those are the people that help the establishment.”

The Legislature, during its budget session earlier this year, approved a bill aimed at expanding the “electioneering communication” law.

It clarified “electioneering communication” to mean any public political advertising and said any expenses or contributions of $1,000 or more for this purpose must be reported. The bill, which was signed into law in March by Gov. Mark Gordon, also said internal communications would not count as electioneering communication.

The Wyoming Attorney General’s Office and Deputy Attorney General Brandi Monger are representing Buchanan, Deputy Secretary of State Karen Wheeler, Election Division Director Kai Schon and state Attorney General Bridget Hill in the case.

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Bill To Prevent Federal Infringements On Gun Rights Introduced; WyGO Says It’s Not Enough

in Guns/News
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would prohibit Wyoming officials using state money to enforce federal firearms restricts won initial Senate approval Thursday despite complaints from a Second Amendment advocacy group that it did not go far enough to protect gun owners.

Senate File 102, the “Second Amendment Protection Act,” was approved for introduction in the Senate by a vote of 21-9.

The measure is similar to others offered in the past designed to prevent law enforcement officers in Wyoming from enforcing federal measures that infringe on Second Amendment rights, said sponsor Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs.

Hicks, speaking in support of the bill’s introduction, said it was developed in cooperation with law enforcement, legislators and others over a three-month period.

“This is a sound bill that provides Wyoming citizens and Wyoming law enforcement the authority to push back (against) unconstitutional infringements on the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of the state of Wyoming,” he said.

The bill specifies that no Wyoming government entity can use state funds to enforce federal measures that are seen as infringing on the Second Amendment.

The measure was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

SF102 cleared its first Senate hurdle despite an attempt by Wyoming Gun Owners to generate support instead for an alternate bill, SF87, the “Second Amendment Preservation Act.”

SF87 specifies that federal acts and laws, such as new taxes on firearms and ammunition, will be considered unconstitutional in Wyoming and will have no effect in the state.

The bill, which opens with a lengthy legislative finding regarding Second Amendment freedoms, also calls for penalties against any governmental entity that tries to enforce federal gun laws.

The bill’s main sponsor is Sen. Anthony Bouchard. It had not been introduced in the Senate by Thursday and the deadline for the introduction of bills in the Senate was Friday.

Aaron Dorr of Wyoming Gun Owners, a vocal supporter of a similar bill sponsored by Bouchard in 2021, criticized the bill introduced in the Senate, urging listeners to his podcasts to contact legislators to encourage them to pass Bouchard’s bill instead.

Dorr said SF102 did not go far enough to protect gun owners.

“Our … bill, which is the best draft you’ll ever see here in Cheyenne, covers every single conceivable firearm, ammunition or accessory that you happen to own that touches on the Second Amendment,” he said.

Dorr criticized SF102 as giving too much authority to law enforcement officers and government officials as opposed to regular citizens.

“You have no enforcement for the citizens and no major civil penalties to serve as the … positive reinforcement to remind Wyoming law enforcement agencies not to violate (the act),” he said.

The bill would also allow the state to work with federal agencies and use federal money to enforce gun rules, Dorr said.

As a result, SF102 is an inferior bill to SF87, Dorr said.

“We have a horrific bill, what a treacherous, intentionally, treacherous bill that provides no protection to gun owners…” Dorr said. “And it’s being pushed by the worst people in the legislature. It should make you angry, it should make you outraged.”

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Wyoming Gun Owners Criticize Cheney, Barrasso Over Trump Impeachment

in News/Liz Cheney/politics
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Gun Owners Association has joined the chorus of organizations criticizing U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney for her vote this week to impeach President Donald Trump this week.

“Its (sic) a statewide embarrassment that our only voice in the House of Representatives, Liberal Liz, is included in this list of hyper moderates! What a joke….” the group wrote on its social media account this week, linking to a story from the New York Times that had a list of Congressional Republicans voting to impeach the president.

Cheney voted this week to impeach Trump on allegations that he incited a mob in Washington, D.C., to storm the Capitol. She has repeatedly said that her decision to impeach the president came from her conscience, not her political beliefs.

“There are times when those of us as elected officials are called on to act in a way that does not take politics into consideration,” she said. “Dealing with something as serious and as grave as the attack on the Capitol is one of those times.”

WYGO is also criticizing U.S. Sen. Barrasso, posting on its Facebook page a screenshot from Twitter that included a list of Republican senators leaning toward convicting Trump. The list included Barrasso and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

In the screenshot, someone has circled Barrasso’s name and added the acronym “WTH,” which means “What the hell.”

“Who does John Barrasso think he works for??? Has [sic] you or any other gun owners that you know of asked John to vote with Chuck Schumer and the hard left, to impeach President Trump??” WYGO wrote in the post.

It should be noted that Barrasso hasn’t publicly said whether or not he will help impeach Trump during a Senate trial.

WYGO has been known for attacking politicians and political candidates its members deem “RINOs,” or “Republicans in name only,” including making denigrating comments about former Wyoming legislators Michael von Flatern and Tyler Lindholm following their defeats in the primary election in August.

The organization is a conservative lobbying group headed by Aaron Dorr.

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Wyoming Gun Owners (WYGO) Slams Losing Candidates After Election

in News/politics
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A conservative pro-gun organization is trumpeting its victories in its efforts to defeat legislative candidates in last week’s primary election that it saw as too moderate.

Wyoming Gun Owners (WYGO) has posted items on its Facebook page throwing barbs at defeated legislative candidates including state Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette, and Erin Johnson, a Republican who sought to unseat state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne.

“Senator Michael Von Flatern — you’re gonna have a lot more time to work on your cooking skills after that 64% – 36% shiner you took to the face (Tuesday) night,” read one posting, accompanied by a picture of Von Flatern baking. “Your mistake was in thinking that WYGO was like every other lobby group, that we would eventually want to play nice. We don’t want to play nice, we want to save our freedoms. You got in the way…..gun owners removed you.”

Von Flatern said he did not understand why WYGO was continuing to comment on candidates who were no longer in the race.

“I don’t have any idea why they’re doing it other than they want to prove a point,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “I would assume I’m done and they know that I’m done. They’re still attacking me because they’re vindictive. They won. They should just take it and go.”

Also targeted by WYGO was Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, who is in the middle of his four-year term.

WYGO mentioned Driskill’s support for Von Flatern and Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, who lost in his re-election bid.

“Folks rumor has it ole Oggy was alternating between sobbing and panic attacks all day today,” another posting said. “You see, the Lindholm House seat is half of Oggy’s Senate seat. And Lindholm lost after calling for a tax increase….the same one Oggy called for.”

Driskill said he found attacks against candidates after they lose the election to be in poor taste.

“To trash somebody after they’ve lost and they’ve graciously congratulated the winner, to kick dirt on them and to gloat over it is un-Christian and it’s unbelievably crass and it’s really a bad way to do politics,” he said.

Driskill, who has been a staunch defender of Second Amendment issues while a member of the Legislature, said he found it interesting he would be labeled as “anti-gun” by WYGO.

He added WYGO used his association with other lawmakers to cast doubt on their stances.

“I think it’s pretty sad that I endorse somebody and they call them a liberal and (the candidate has) never had a chance to cast a vote (on legislation),” he said. “They decide they want to call them a liberal for whatever reason. I call it character assassination.”

Lindholm said he has not seen such comments being made after an election.

“I’ve never seen a pile-on after a defeat,” he said. “Usually the person who is defeated concedes and the person who won comes out and says ‘Good race, let’s move on to the next one.’”

Lindholm added that because WYGO is a lobbying organization, it may have to work with some of the people it has criticized.

“The reality is you’re going to have to work with these people again,” he said. “With this organization coming out and still swinging their baseball bat shows kind of a lack of understanding on the part of that leadership.”

Driskill and Lindholm agreed such tactics are more common in other areas.

“They’re creating the same exact culture that Washington, D.C., has,” Driskill said. “You take somebody down and strip their dignity. When you do this character assassination, you divide everybody into camps and you make everything partisan.”

Johnson, who challenged Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, in his bid for re-election, was also criticized by WYGO after the primary.

“Erin…..if you have to assure people you’re not part of the swamp, you’re in trouble. Which is, umm, why you lost,” said a post written in response to a posting from Johnson that discussed the campaign. “WYGO has dealt with scum like you for over a decade…and we’ll be exposing scum like you for the next decade. Nice try….but gun owners can smell a fraud from 100 miles away. #LOSER.”

Britney Wallesch, a Democrat who will face Bouchard in the general election, also questioned the tactic in her own Facebook post.

“It’s not enough that she lost because of blatant lies, which the governor himself refuted, but they had to gloat over it, too,” she wrote. “We can know a man by who his friends are.”

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