POLITICS & ELECTIONS

Concealed guns could be coming soon to Wyoming schools, meetings

Mar 8, 2024, 2:15 PM | Updated: 2:18 pm

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon...

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon gives the State of the State address to the Wyoming Legislature on March 2, 2021. Gordon has not said whether he will sign a bill that would allow concealed carry of firearms in schools and government meetings. (Michael Cummo/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP, File)

(Michael Cummo/The Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP, File)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A bill that would allow concealed carry of firearms in schools and government meetings is headed to Wyoming’s governor after clearing the state Legislature by a wide margin Thursday.

What happens next is somewhat uncertain because Wyoming governors traditionally don’t say if they plan to sign or veto bills. Gov. Mark Gordon has not spoken publicly about the bill, but he is a Republican gun rights supporter.

Wyoming is among the gun-friendliest states and the bill passed the state Senate 22-8 after supporters dismissed fears about allowing guns where they’re currently banned.

People carry concealed guns in Wyoming all the time without stirring fear, said state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, a Republican from Cheyenne.

“If people were afraid they wouldn’t go in all the stores around us. They wouldn’t go into any businesses around us. They would have to roll up the towns and close Wyoming down,” Bouchard said in a floor debate.

In Wyoming, gun owners haven’t needed a permit to carry guns openly or, since 2021, to carry a concealed firearm,.

Under the latest gun bill, open carry would still be prohibited in schools and government meetings, and K-12 students could not have guns at school. Guns would still be banned in jails, courts, police stations, and hospitals, and on private property if that’s the owner’s wish.

However concealed firearms would become permissible with a permit at the University of Wyoming and community colleges in areas not serving alcohol. They also would be allowed without a permit in government meetings including those of the Legislature.

As with previous gun debates in Wyoming, lawmakers interpreted the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms permissively.

“If we let school superintendents decide on this constitutional right, it won’t be long before they’re deciding on First Amendment rights,” said Sen. Troy McKeown, a Republican from Gillette.

A handful of Wyoming districts have let school officials carry guns in schools since the state allowed it in 2017. States allowing permit holders to have concealed guns in schools include Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

One of Wyoming Senate’s two Democrats, Chris Rothfuss of Laramie, argued against the bill, saying he had not heard from teachers or students on the issue. He appealed to the Republican principle that the government closest to the people governs best.

“What this says to city councils, county commissioners, is your judgment is not good enough here,” Rothfuss said.

The chamber’s other Democrat, Mike Gierau of Jackson, also voted against the bill, changing his vote to no after initially voting for it.

The bill earlier cleared the state House 54-7, then failed in a Senate committee before being revived in a procedural vote to bring it to the full Senate.

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Concealed guns could be coming soon to Wyoming schools, meetings