Guns in public

Anthony Bouchard, who is now a state senator, speaks at a 2011 Casper City Council meeting. Bouchard, who open-carried a pistol at that meeting, is among more than 30 state lawmakers who are sponsoring a bill to repeal most gun-free zones in Wyoming.

A new bill that aims to eliminate gun-free zones across the state has gained significant traction in the Wyoming Legislature. Senate File 75 would give the Legislature the power to regulate firearms and override local rulings.

While measures to loosen firearms regulations certainly align with a conservative ideology, measures that aim to reduce local autonomy do not. Typically, Wyoming legislators don’t like it when the federal government tells them what to do, but in this instance they are pushing their views on local governments. This seems hypocritical.

This board has historically opposed any legislation aiming to allow firearms on school campuses, including arming teachers. We have also supported the state’s current ruling which gives local school districts the right to choose for themselves.

Every community throughout Wyoming is different. And so how each town chooses to regulate guns in public spaces should be left up to the local leaders that local residents have elected. It shouldn’t be up to our state Legislature to make sweeping changes that override local input.

The legislation wouldn’t preempt private property rights — businesses would maintain authority to regulate guns as they choose. Similarly, federal government buildings and courthouses would continue to be gun-free zones.

But every public school, from K-12 through the University of Wyoming, would be forced to allow members of the public to carry guns on campus. This is problematic for many reasons, especially considering that most currently ban guns in the interest of safety.

Think of the burden this will place on security officers and police in these communities. Threats on school and college campuses are already at an all-time high. Inviting guns onto campuses would only create an added risk of accidental shootings, while making the jobs of peacekeepers monumentally more difficult. Imagine a situation where police are called to respond to a threat of violence on campus, only to find students openly carrying firearms. How would they be able to efficiently determine who was the threat and who wasn’t?

Similarly, if someone opens fire at a school function, like a play or a sporting event, and armed parents or teachers respond by engaging in a firefight, how are police officers going to identify the threat? And what is the likelihood that an untrained individual will be able to effectively stop an attacker without harming students or other bystanders? Ultimately, bringing more guns into an active shooting situation can cause as many problems as it aims to solve.

Part of the deal of being a responsible gun owner is knowing the law and knowing the law everywhere. Guns are not appropriate in certain spaces, and it’s a gun owner’s responsibility to know which spaces those are.

There will always be gun-free spaces — in federal government buildings, airports, courthouses, hospitals and private businesses. We believe schools should be gun-free as well.

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