February 2, 2017
Lawmakers ignored a plea from University of Wyoming faculty to reconsider its support for a bill that would allow concealed-carry permit holders to roam the campus armed. Intent on forcing the university to heed its will, the House overwhelmingly passed the bill Wednesday.
The vote on House Bill 136, which allows concealed-carry permit holders to bring firearms to UW and the state’s community colleges as long as the weapons are hidden, passed with a 40 – 19 vote (see the bottom of this page for the vote tally). HB-137, a companion bill to allow concealed carry of guns at all governmental meetings in Wyoming—including the Legislature—was approved 47-13.
“There are aspects of a university setting that are not conducive to students, educators and visitors carrying firearms,” stated a UW Faculty Senate resolution.
In fact, HB-136 would violate federal Gun-Free Zone acts of 1990 and 1994 by allowing weapons in UW facilities like its Early Childhood Education Center, which has students from 3 months to 9 years of age, as well as the UW Lab School, which has classes from kindergarten through 8th grade. The Faculty Senate statement said allowing concealed carry firearms on campus with these facilities for children would compromise the ECEC’s accreditation and put it and the Lab School, a prized institution of its own in Laramie, in violation of federal law.
“The dynamics of college life include tremendous stress, social obstacles, alcohol and drug abuse and other questionable behaviors, and these can have potentially lethal consequences when firearms are readily available,” the Faculty Senate’s resolution stated.
Other concerns are the high suicide rate in Wyoming, which officials fear could increase with more guns available, and the chance of accidental discharge or misuse of a weapon by a gun carrier.
The UW Faculty Senate added that if a student or faculty member believes he or she is threatened, the option is already available to obtain a concealed carry permit from the UW Police Department to obtain a gun for personal protection on campus. HB-136 would bypass the university altogether, so security would have no clue who is armed.
The Faculty Senate acknowledges the need and right for a safe academic environment, but it also believes the risks associated with armed students and educators “greatly outweigh the deterrence benefits from the small chance that firearms carriers could prevent a tragedy on campus.”
The resolution was signed by Donal O’Toole, secretary of the Faculty Senate, and presented to UW’s president and the leadership of the Wyoming Legislature.
Chris Boswell, UW’s vice president for governmental and community affairs, hopes to convince some senators to take the time to look at UW’s concerns with campus carry. He said UW President Laurie Nichols drove from Laramie to Cheyenne on Wednesday in icy conditions to talk individually with several state senators.
“I think that’s an indication of how seriously we’re treating this,” Boswell said. “Several senators seemed to be listening closely to UW’s concerns.”
Rep. James Byrd (D-Cheyenne), who tried without success to convince his Republican colleagues that both bills were unnecessary, later said he doesn’t understand what the majority is thinking.
“This attitude that everyone needs to be armed is a very flawed concept,” he explained. If there’s an active shooter situation, for instance, he said, “When law enforcement arrives they’re not going to be looking at who are the good guys. … If you have a weapon in your hands and you’re actively shooting at someone, how are [police] supposed to instantly know what’s going on?”
Byrd said the bills’ fate rests in the hands of the Senate, which hasn’t looked favorably in recent years at proposals that loosen gun restrictions. “I hope they kill both bills,” he said.
Several House supporters of the bills maintained that Americans have the right to take their guns anywhere. Byrd vehemently disagrees.
“This discussion that it’s an infringement on your Second Amendment rights—that’s not what this is all about,” he said. “You have the right to own as many guns as you want. It’s a public safety issue. It’s a reasonability issue.”
Byrd explained that when the university hosts a large public event, the school’s insurance requires trained sheriff’s reserve officers to be on hand providing protection.
“Campus carry just defies logic. … Rather than take everyone’s guns away from them, they’d rather arm everyone and have a good ol’ Western shootout. And in the end when all the smoke clears, I guess they expect all the good guys to be standing.
“That is so pie-in-the-sky,” Byrd concluded. “At the end of the day you’re going to have a bunch of dead bodies.”