Wed 26 Jan, 2011 04:01 am
Wyoming residents would be able to carry concealed guns
without a license under a bill that cleared
the state Senate on Monday.
The Wyoming Senate voted 20-10 in favor of the bill,
sponsored by Sen. Kit Jennings, R-Casper.
If the bill ultimately becomes law, Wyoming would
join Alaska, Arizona and Vermont as states that
don't require citizens to have licenses to carry concealed weapons.
Supporters of the Wyoming bill note that the state
and federal constitutions guarantee the people's
right to carry guns. They also say criminals are
already carrying concealed weapons illegally.
Opponents, however, said they're worried about
putting more guns into hands of people who
shouldn't have them.
Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, voted for the bill.
"In my heart, it just comes down to responsible
people following the law and carrying a gun are
not a threat," he said after the Senate hearing.
"It's people not following the law, or who are
mentally over the top, they're not going to be
deterred by a law that says you can't carry it,"
Case said. "To me, in the end, it's pretty clear."
Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, spoke against the
bill on the Senate floor. "Here we're all for protecting
the right to keep and bear arms," Scott said after the vote.
"My thought was this bill was dangerous in that respect,
in that it removed some of the controls we have
on people carrying concealed weapons who are
likely to be dangerous."
Scott said the average person could manage a
concealed weapon. "It's the people that drink too
much, and the people who are just plain literally
crazy that you have to worry about," he said.
Wyoming already has issued more than 20,000
licenses that allow citizens to carry concealed guns.
The state would retain its license system if
Jennings' bill becomes law because the licenses
allow people to carry concealed in other states
that have agreements with Wyoming.
Scott said it's debatable whether the existing
license system gives law enforcement enough
discretion to deny license applications.
"This law goes the exact opposite direction,"
and justifiably makes law enforcement nervous,
Scott said. "I think there's a risk if this passes
you're going to have a real tragedy, the left-wing
gun control folks are going to use as an excuse for
pushing some gun control that really would be
dangerous for our rights."
Several law enforcement officials urged a Senate
committee last week to consider carefully any
change to the state's existing license system.
Anthony Bouchard, executive of the Wyoming Gun Owners
Association, said his group has been lobbying for the bill.
"We certainly want criminals to be punished to the max,
but we don't want people that are just exercising
their right to defend themselves penalized when
they have no ill intent." Bouchard said.