Wyoming Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, is facing heat from gun rights activists in the state.
Lubnau is working on a bill that would allow local governments to regulate the carrying, possession, discharge or brandishing of firearms.
The bill would limit guns in circumstances where “secondary damage to population or infrastructure would outweigh the needs of self defense.”
In addition, guns could be banned from water treatment facilities, areas where radioactive or biological materials are present, and in hospital surgical suites. Lubnau said they would also be banned from local government meetings.
Anthony Bouchard, executive director of Wyoming Gun Owners, said Lubnau’s bill would strip gun rights from Wyomingites and violate the state Constitution.
“It’s in the Constitution and state statute,” Rep. Allen Jaggi, R-Lyman, said.
State law, known as pre-emption, requires that no city, town, county, shall regulate or prohibit the carrying or possession of firearms, weapons, accessories and components or ammunition.
“The fine line is allowing local government to do what they think they have to do to promote public safety without infringing on Second Amendment rights,” Rep. Michael Madden, R-Buffalo, said. “When the speaker has a bill, he’s got a pretty good reason for why he’s got it there.”
Lubnau has been working on the bill for nine months and said he is not politicizing the incidents at Casper College and Newtown, Conn.
“I am not riding on the backs of these tragedies for political advantage,” he said.
The issue was a hot-button topic during last year’s legislative session, starting with House Bill 70. It died in its chamber of origin after its third reading.
It was sponsored by former Rep. Jonathan Botten, R-Sheridan, and Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper. The bill would have made it illegal to carry or possess a firearm into a court building. Police officers and those designated by county commissioners or a judge would have had permission to carry firearms into court buildings.
The need for regulation of firearms is most apparent in a court room, Perkins said. “Especially when you’re sitting 20 feet from someone who’s being accused of rape or murder, situations can get heated. And it’s important nobody is armed.”
If a government entity can ensure that everyone who enters is unarmed, that becomes a single situation where you can regulate firearms, Perkins said.
“We've got to make sure we don’t have a knee-jerk reaction,” he said. “But there’s always things that don’t mix with firearms.”
Perkins said he’s confident lawmakers can reach an understanding that upholds the framework of the Second Amendment but outlines where guns are appropriate and where they’re not.
District Judge Jeffrey Donnell ordered the Albany County sheriff in November to bar guns and other deadly weapons from the courthouse and other county offices.
Bouchard said the judge lacked authority to regulate such an order.
Tim Sullivan, chairman of the Albany County Commission, wrote to Sen. Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, and Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, in late December. Sullivan asked the lawmakers to clarify who has authority to regulate weapons in county buildings, according to wire reports.
Jaggi is working on a bill that would deny local governments the right to regulate the carrying, possession or discharge of firearms. Jaggi and three other lawmakers supported a similar bill last year. It didn’t make it past first reading in the House. Lubnau voted no. It failed to reach a majority by two votes.
The speaker of the House said he’s been working with Jaggi to help polish the language used in last year’s bills.
Jaggi said the lawmakers have spoken about whether Lubnau’s bill is pre-emptive or not.
“It’s not pre-emption,” Jaggi said.
In a letter to members of Wyoming Gun Owners, Bouchard said, “It’s obvious Representative Lubnau believes that your right to self defense comes with local government strings attached. Without your action, the gun grabbers will increase the number of places where law abiding gun owners are rendered helpless and local governments are free to enact their own gun control.”
Lubnau said if anyone wants to challenge his stance on guns, “look at my record.”
In 2011, he voted yes for employees to have guns in their cars while they’re parked at work. In the same year, he also voted to exempt firearms, ammo and other accessories made in Wyoming from federal law. He voted to authorize the concealed weapons permit in 2010.
The 2013 legislative session opens today in Cheyenne.