The Casper City Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed ordinance that would ban people from openly carrying guns and other deadly weapons at city meetings.
The council could vote on the matter following the hearing. But some members said they’d prefer to wait on a decision until Wyoming lawmakers have an opportunity to enact statewide legislation.
“We could start down the path,” said Mayor Paul Bertoglio. “We’d give them public input that is difficult to get as a legislature.”
Groups representing Wyoming cities and counties are working with lawmakers on bills that would prohibit weapons at public meetings, said City Manager John Patterson. In the upcoming budget session, the legislation would need a supermajority vote simply to be introduced.
Even with that hurdle, council members Bill Brauer and Maury Daubin spoke in favor of giving the Legislature time to address the issue. But Ward 1 representative Kim Holloway said she questioned whether lawmakers would actually address the issue next year.
“This is a budget session,” she said. “It probably won’t come up.”
The council would have to vote on the ordinance at three meetings before it could go into effect. It would apply to council meetings, as well as meetings of groups like the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Backers of an open carry ban say it would create a safe zone at city meetings where people could express themselves without fear.
The proposed ordinance mirrors state law, which already prohibits concealed weapons from government meetings, according to Police Chief Chris Walsh. Extending the ban to openly carried guns is reasonable, he said.
“This way we have an open forum where nobody is intimidated by weapons,” he said.
The public is already prohibited from openly carrying firearms at courthouses and in the Legislature, Walsh added.
Critics say the ban is neither legal nor necessary.
“It’s been 100 years that open carry has been acceptable and unregulated,” said Wyoming Gun Owners Executive Director Anthony Bouchard. “And I sit there and watch all these people act as if somehow... we need to worry about all of these people openly carrying weapons.
Bouchard worries the ban would lead to further restrictions on guns.
“They think that somehow making this law is going to make everyone safer,” he said. “Quite frankly, it has been proven it doesn’t.”
Opponents believe state law precludes the city from enacting the ban. City Attorney Bill Luben disagrees. He told council members the state has already given the city the power to regulate weapons.
Daubin questioned the effectiveness of a city ordinance. A person with homicidal plans isn’t going to show up to a meeting openly carrying a weapon, he said.
The proposed ban isn’t about deterring a maniac, countered Holloway.
“This is about having a peaceable assembly,” she said.