CHEYENNE -- State Rep. Allen Jaggi, R-Lyman, envisions schools where teachers and administrators, if they desire, pack heat.
Jaggi taught biology for 36 years. He would have loved the opportunity to carry a concealed weapon -- to protect students and colleagues if they ever needed it.
Now Jaggi has co-sponsored House Bill 105, which would allow people to carry concealed weapons in Wyoming’s elementary and secondary schools and colleges and universities if they have a valid concealed carry permit.
The key to the legislation, Jaggi said, is choice.
“My next-door neighbor [who also teaches] wouldn’t mess with a gun,” he said.
HB105 is one of a handful of bills on the agenda the first three days of next week which will address such emotional topics in the House as gun rights, gay marriage, abortion and civil liberties.
Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, delayed about 10 controversial social issue bills for next week. Extra security has been hired and will be dispersed among committee rooms and the House gallery and lobby.
Lubnau assigned the bills to committees on Friday.
On Monday and Tuesday, committees will hear the bills.
On Wednesday, the bills that pass committee will be debated for the first time on the House floor.
Lobbying, from Wyomingites and lobbyists, has intensified leading to Monday.
“We’ve gotten lots of email, in particular on ‘Why did you hold these back?’” Lubnau said.
Gun owners have asked legislators to vote in favor of many of the gun bills, he said.
Gun-loving Wyomingites could experience a slew of restrictions lifted when the opposite is happening in Washington as a response to recent mass shootings such as the homicides at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Second Amendment enthusiasts feel threatened by Congress, said Anthony Bouchard, executive director of the Cheyenne-based Wyoming Gun Owners Association.
But the Wyoming Legislature may not be as enthusiastic.
“The Legislature lumps us in with those bad guys they need extra security for,” Bouchard said. “It’s insulting to my members. We don’t see ourselves as gun-packing criminals.”
Lubnau said the beefed-up security doesn't target or label any specific group.
“The decision wasn’t social issue bills but those bills historically where we’ve had the most angry and vocal crowds,” he said. “Usually it’s social issues. It’s surprising some of the death threats have come on the heels of gun bills. There’s a lot of disinformation. I think folks ... are spreading disinformation that we are [bundling] bills with the intent of killing them. But that’s not the case at all.”
Lubnau didn’t go into specifics on the death threats to legislators, saying he did not want to glorify the messages.
But the messages did not specifically influence his decision to bundle the bills together, he said.
He figured it would be cheaper to hire security over three days than to have it scattered over many days.
“That was more than anything a money measure and not wanting to overly inconvenience capital security if we do them all in the compressed period of time,” he said.
He said he notified the Wyoming Highway Patrol, which provides security for the state Capitol, of the messages.
Rep. Kendell Kroeker, R-Evansville, is sponsoring abortion, gun and civil liberties bills to exempt Wyoming from sections of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012. He said he received some threats.
Kroeker said some of the messages were uncivil. He’s been told he has the blood of dead children on his hands for gun bills.
“I had one guy say that politicians like me who allow guns to be legal were what caused all the murders and so they hoped that someone used their gun on me and run down and kill my family,” he said. “Speaker Lubnau said the Capitol received a fax along those lines, too… It had my name on it.”
Kroeker, like Lubnau, turned over the messages to authorities. One was on Facebook and the writer quickly deleted it, he said.
Kroeker said he feels safe, as many messages originated outside Wyoming. Kroeker said many people assume he’s armed, which provides a layer of safety.
Wyoming Highway Patrol Lt. Klief Guenther said none of the messages have been specific enough to rise to the level of terrorist activity, which under state law has a specific definition.
“I think I’ve looked at four emails from different legislators this session,” he said.
People send threatening messages each session of the Legislature, Guenther said.
That’s why the Capitol has more security during the session than at other times of the year, he said.
Senate President Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, does not know whether he will reserve days for social issue bills or hear them as they come up.
Only one social issue bill -- on abortion -- has been proposed by senators.
He said it’s hard to predict how many bills will pass from the House into the Senate.
“We’ll have to see where they fall, and I’ll make a decision based on our schedule once we see what bills come over from the House,” he said. “The reality is, there are 60 members in the House and 30 members in the Senate.”
Typically, there are more bills from the House into the Senate, he said.