CHEYENNE — State lawmakers are drafting legislation that would prevent local governments in Wyoming from passing any gun control laws, under penalty of heavy fines or even removal from office.
Currently, Wyoming law prohibits cities, counties and other local bodies from passing their own laws regulating or banning firearms, except to prevent rioting, disturbances or disorderly assemblies.
But late last year, the Casper City Council controversially banned openly carried weapons at city government meetings; the Gillette City Council shelved a similar proposal in May.
Under the legislation, which sponsors plan to file within the next couple of days, all local government gun control laws would be nullified.
Advocates of the bill said they weren’t sure how many such laws already on the books around the state would be affected.
In addition, according to the legislation, anyone who has a local gun rule enforced against them could sue for a permanent injunction and may be awarded up to $200,000. If any local official or employee knowingly passed or enforced such a law, they would be removed from office.
Supporters of the proposed bill say gun bans such as the one passed in Casper violate the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And they claim that the bill would close a loophole, as stopping law-abiding citizens from carrying firearms is hardly preventing a riot.
“It’s a constitutional right to bear arms, so it bothers me that they could pass things that infringe upon our rights,” said state Rep. Kendall Kroeker, R-Evansville, the bill’s sponsor.
State Sen. Kit Jennings, R-Casper, the Senate sponsor of the bill, said while he doesn’t like to pass this type of legislation, in this case it’s needed.
“When city or the county looks at the state statute and says, ‘We can do whatever we want to,’ then I guess you have to put some meat into your law,” he said.
Casper City Councilman Paul Bertoglio, who was mayor when the City Council acted, opposed the ordinance against weapons in city government meetings. But he defended the City Council’s right to pass such an ordinance, citing a provision in state law stating local governments can pursue laws not addressed by the state.
Bertoglio also said the punishments laid out in Kroeker’s proposal are “excessive,” especially the threat to have a court remove elected officials from office.
“To suggest that if we enact any gun laws, that we violated something, the heavy hand of the judiciary is going to come in and remove an elected official on that basis, I think, is a very slippery slope to get into,” he said. “Because it could be probably used for any number of things in any special interest group’s minds that they vehemently disagree with.”
Gillette City Council member Kevin McGrath said he also opposes the legislation, saying city employees already have enough to do without having to deal with firearms. And having someone argue before council members while wearing a gun, he said, can be intimidating.
“It doesn’t pertain to me anyhow,” said McGrath, a Gillette police officer. “I can carry a gun in City Hall.”
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