The 2023 Wyoming Legislative Session Recap – Much More Work Needs to be Done!
The 2023 Wyoming Legislative Session came to an end on Friday, March 3, after a rocky ride for our Second Amendment Rights!
When it comes to gun issues, the 2023 Session contained some bad news and some good news.
FIRST THE BAD NEWS!
In the final week of the Session, GOA warned our members and supporters that the Wyoming Legislature was poised to pass hidden gun control in a bill labeled “Restoration of Civil Rights!”
Despite a strong GOA-backed effort to amend this bill by pro-gun Representatives in the House, SF0120 passed without critical amendments just before the Legislature adjourned on March 3.
As passed, SF0120 restores the right to bear arms to one-time non-violent felons in Wyoming, which is a concept GOA supports. However, SF0120 contains gun control provisions not necessary for restoring rights, and it actually revokes rights not previously revoked under Wyoming statutes.
Essentially, the Wyoming Legislature revoked the firearms rights of non-violent felons under Wyoming law in order to restore them under Federal Law when there were other legal paths for restoring the rights of non-violent felons. With two simple amendments, SF0120 could have been a true “Restoration of Civil Rights” bill, contained no gun control, and accomplished the same end result!
While we are talking about bad news, early in the session, we were hopeful we could pass legislation to repeal most of Wyoming’s remaining gun-free zones (HB0105 sponsored by Representative Haroldson [R] from Wheatland) and stop Biden’s Red Flag money (HB0250 sponsored by Representative Jennings [R] from Sheridan). HB0205 would have complimented and enhanced the GOA-backed Second Amendment Protection Act which passed in 2022 — a law that already prohibits state and local participation in unconstitutional federal gun control.
However, in early February, Wyoming House Speaker Albert Sommers [R] from Pinedale sent HB0105 and HB0250 to the anti-gun House Appropriations Committee. The Appropriations Committee first gutted both pieces of legislation by trying to pass “Substitute Bills” containing terrible language. Ultimately, both bills were stonewalled.
Effectively, using a variety of hard-to-track processes, Speaker Sommers and the Appropriations Committee kept both the Stop Red Flags Act and Repeal Gun-free Zones bills from getting a vote from your elected Representatives on the full House Floor.
This experience has taught us that we face serious challenges with House Leadership and at least one anti-gun Committee when it comes to passing important legislation to advance our Second Amendment Rights in Wyoming.
Keep in mind that both the Repeal Gun-free Zones Bill and the Stop Red Flags Bill are in line with legislation already passed in other states. The “Cowboy State,” under the leadership of the current Speaker and his Committees, is lagging behind other states in terms of standing up for our God-given Right to Keep and Bear Arms!
NOW FOR SOME GOOD NEWS!
GOA-Backed SF0148 passed both the Wyoming Senate and House and was signed into law by Governor Gordon on Monday, February 27! This bill fixes an error in Wyoming’s Statutes by restoring the intent of Wyoming’s Preemption law and stopping localities from passing more restrictive gun control than allowed by the state legislature.
This new law means a local Wyoming authority CANNOT pass restrictions on concealed carry, magazine size, or other legal firearms or firearms-related activities allowed under Wyoming law. All authority to regulate firearms rests with the State Legislature.
Another positive piece of legislation that passed was HB0104. This legislation removes unnecessary restrictions on night predator hunting that previously existed. Now, all public lands (over one-half of the Cowboy State) are subject to the same rules that already existed for private lands. This results in significantly increased hunter opportunity and access to places to hunt all across Wyoming.
The 2023 Wyoming Legislative Session was a story of wins and losses for the Second Amendment.
Wyoming continues to lag behind neighbors like Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, and Utah in terms of gun-free zones. We failed to pass a law to enhance our SAPA and specifically stop Red Flag money like done in Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Our Legislature added gun control provisions to our Wyoming statutes in order to “restore rights” to non-violent felons, even though those gun control provisions were not necessary for accomplishing that goal.
On a positive note, we strengthened Wyoming Statutes to prevent localities from passing gun control not authorized by the State Legislature, and we expanded hunter opportunities on public lands.
Going forward, we have a lot of work to do before passing any meaningful legislation during the 2024 Session.
All Second Amendment advocates need to mobilize and demand more of our elected Representatives and Senators in 2024. GOA will keep you informed and help lead the way on that mission!
Be sure to keep in mind that 2024 is also another election cycle in Wyoming. GOA will work hard to advance pro-Second Amendment Legislation during the next Legislative Session, and we will begin laying the groundwork for holding officials accountable during the 2024 election season.
Be on the lookout for more from GOA in the coming weeks and months as we continue to fight to protect the Second Amendment and advance hunter opportunities in the Cowboy State!
P.S. Please be watching for updates about Second Amendment issues in the coming weeks and months, and be on the lookout for information about other GOA efforts that will protect and/or advance your Second Amendment Rights!