When freshman Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne) ran the most extreme pro-gun organization in Wyoming, he used mean, juvenile tactics to try to bully every legislator who disagreed with him. He made the NRA look as menacing as a Cub Scout pack.
Last week, Bouchard was in the news after hassling students at the University of Wyoming and threatening to use his powers as a legislator to take away a professor’s funding and have her fired.
Whatever your view on gun control is, it’s hard to argue that Bouchard wasn’t acting like an ass.
Characteristically, Bouchard screeched that this was all “fake news!” when outlets reported on it. But his pattern of behavior since arriving in Wyoming demonstrates that acting like a hysterical bully is simply what Bouchard does.
“He’s a whack-a-doodle”
As a lobbyist, before he became a state senator, most of Bouchard’s targets were Republicans. He endlessly berated them on his Wyoming Gun Owners Association website and Facebook page and also created anti-legislator memes. Some erroneously tied GOP lawmakers to President Barack Obama; one featured a photo of a legislator whom he suggested has a small penis.
He also ran around the Capitol Building whenever the Legislature was in session, taking photos of lawmakers he deemed foes of the Second Amendment. He posted these online, too, and waved them around at rallies.
What Bouchard got for his clever lobbying efforts was universal disdain from his enemies, especially the ones in leadership positions. In 2013, then-Senate Majority Floor Leader Phil Nicholas (R-Laramie) made it a point to tell the Associated Press that “rude pressure tactics” from Bouchard and his group were the reason he single-handedly killed two gun rights bills by not letting them be heard in the Senate.
“He’s a whack-a-doodle,” Rep. James Byrd (D-Cheyenne) told the Casper Star-Tribune.
The no-bill blues
Despite his brutal treatment of legislators, Bouchard desperately longed to join their club. After losing two elections he finally won the Senate District 6 seat in 2016 after running particularly nasty primary and general election campaigns.
But he turned out to be just as ineffective a legislator as he was a lobbyist. His signature bill, to allow people with concealed carry permits to bring guns on college campuses, went down in flames after the University of Wyoming and every community college in the state opposed it.
Lawmakers passed the other gun bill he co-sponsored, which would have allowed permit holders to bring concealed weapons to government meetings. But Republican Gov. Matt Mead vetoed it, saying it “undermined local control,” even while passing a different school gun bill Bouchard didn’t sponsor.
Belligerent lobbyist, belligerent legislator
The dust-up at the university took place at a symposium Bouchard drove from Cheyenne to attend, where some students gave a presentation showing the link between racial profiling, conceal-carry laws, and unarmed black men being shot. They concluded that concealed-carry classes should include a segment on race.
Bouchard began berating them afterward, but didn’t identify himself as a lawmaker until pressed by the students’ professor. Bouchard, in turn, started going in on her, telling her he’d cut her funding and have her fired.
Allegedly, when Bouchard said guns were needed on campus to keep students safe, and the professor said the presence of campus security made her feel safe, Bouchard replied by suggesting he’d come to campus and set off some M-80s (illegal firecrackers that are the equivalent of a sixteenth of a stick of dynamite) and see how long it took for security to show up.
A symposium organizer asked Bouchard to leave, and he did. But he returned and began taking photos of the teacher and her students, which later appeared on Facebook along with this message: “Instructor ALLISON GERNANT @ Univ of Wyoming. She’s proud of her students pushing for more gun control— ‘Concealed carry a threat against minorities…’ You just can’t make this stuff up!”
What makes a bully in the Legislature? Same as in the schoolyard
So what compels Anthony Bouchard to be a bully? It’s hard to say, but the most cursory study of human nature reveals that bullies tend to actually be cowards, and their belligerence stems from feelings of fear.
In fact, Bouchard goes to great lengths to portray himself as a victim. After the UW incident, he sniveled that the Democratic Party was “beating me up” (of course, Wyoming Democrats are a real force to be reckoned with).
When he was running a losing legislative campaign in 2014, Bouchard told the Star-Tribune that his passion for guns was the result of having had an “angry man” point a gun at his face, and having been shot at twice.
In 2010, Bouchard was in Sheridan when he once again became a victim—this time of some police officers hassling him about his sidearm. In Bouchard’s telling of the story, he remains steely-nerved and calm, even while the cops are facing him down with AR-15s. The officer who addresses him, on the other hand, is overcome by an adrenaline rush that causes him to shake after Bouchard declines the officer’s demand for an ID, telling the cop: “You aren’t getting anything. I didn’t break any law.”
It reads like a child’s fantasy of one day being big and tough, and indeed there’s something childlike about Bouchard—watching him walk around the Capitol building with his baby face and ill-fitting suits, exuding self-consciousness, like he doesn’t really belong. A lobbyist told Better Wyoming one day during the session that he’d found Bouchard sulking and learned that the senator felt like none of his colleagues liked him.
It’s tempting to feel bad for Bouchard once you realize his chest-beating and posturing is a defense mechanism. And certainly many of his constituents are happy that he’s “standing up for the Second Amendment.” But Bouchard’s obsessed pursuit of his personal crusade and the unhinged manner with which he wields power make him a worthless public servant.
There’s nothing wrong with being angry. But Bouchard needs to grow up or get out.