Bill aims to repeal gun free zones

Including schools and sporting events

Posted 2/29/24

Permitted adults may soon be able to carry concealed firearms on public K-12 and college property and at school sanctioned sporting events if House Bill 125 passes.

The bill also allows …

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Bill aims to repeal gun free zones

Including schools and sporting events


Permitted adults may soon be able to carry concealed firearms on public K-12 and college property and at school sanctioned sporting events if House Bill 125 passes.

The bill also allows individuals to conceal carry in other public places, with some exceptions, including at legislative meetings, for which they do not need a permit if they meet the other requirements to conceal carry. 

However, schools are able to exercise some control over how their staff conceal carry within their district.

The bill, repeal gun free zones and preemption amendments, was amended during its third reading in the House on Tuesday to include language similar to statute W.S. 21-3-132. That started as a bill co-sponsored in 2017 by area legislators Rep. David Northrup (R-Powell) and the late Sen. Hank Coe (R-Cody) and passed into law. The law allows schools to set up rules and regulations to allow employees to conceal carry. It also stipulates that staff who carry must meet a series of training requirements. This includes holding a concealed carry permit.

House Bill 125 is an extension of the bill he co-sponsored in 2017, Northrup said, “It's just that it puts it in everybody's hands and forces the districts to allow it.”

Several districts in Wyoming currently allow concealed carry including Cody, Ten Sleep, Lander and Evanston. 

The amendment made on Tuesday stipulates that the “board of trustees in each school district may adopt rules and regulations to govern employees lawfully carrying concealed weapons in Wyoming.” These are subject to approval by local law enforcement.

The bill also makes clear that the school district's rules and regulations would only apply to employees.

Required training in the bill includes “an initial course of training comprised of not less than 16 hours of live fire handgun training and eight hours of scenario based training using nonlethal training, firearms and ammunition.”

Firearms must also be kept on the individual’s person or in a lock box under their control.

Annual qualification and recurring training may also not be less than 12 hours. School boards for isolated rural schools may waive “all or part of the training requirements” if they choose. 

Another amendment to the bill specified that individuals may not conceal carry at sporting venues that serve alcohol, said bill sponsor Rep. Jeremy Haroldson (R-Wheatland). This means that individuals may not carry at the University of Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium and Arena Auditorium. 


Legislators weigh in

Haroldson sponsored the bill in part to do away with state and federal limitations on citizens’ right to bear arms. 

Gun free zones are an infringement on that right, he said. 

“Second of all, statistics have proven time and time again that they're soft zones for crime and that we're seeing that these are the areas where shooters are targeting because of the fact that they don't face opposition in those areas,” Haroldson said.  “And so this is an opportunity to protect students, to protect those in positions of authority … and I believe it's realigning us with the Constitution.”

Haroldson added that he thinks the bill will work well for small rural schools “where a full program may not be feasible, but a concealed carry permit is.”

He cited the distance of small communities from law enforcement — in some cases they are 30-40 minutes away. This bill would give communities an opportunity to defend and protect their children, he said.

“The security approach provided by (possession of firearms on school property) is proven effective both in Wyoming and in the many other states that authorize concealed carry by approved school staff,” said Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (R-Cody), a co-sponsor on the bill. “No school with armed school staff present has ever experienced a shooting incident. Utah has successfully implemented this for 30 years. The good people of Wyoming can do this in a safe manner.”

Northrup, who voted for the bill on third reading, said there will be an adjustment period.

“In theory, there’s always the person who has to get it out and play with it, but in theory you and I should never know that anybody’s ever carrying and teachers and students should not feel harassed because somebody’s carrying a gun on their hip,” Northrup said.

He added that the “adjustment period will be rather intense” and said that districts and colleges will need to put together a policy for those who openly display a gun. 

“There's been a lot of work by a lot of people to make this a good bill. I believe that people were able to walk forward and preserve the rights but at the same time, clean up some of the language that needed to be cleaned up and protect some areas that needed protection, that are sensitive areas that have guards in them and have protection and so this is a good way to make that move forward,” Haroldson said. 


What does this mean for Powell’s school boards?

Park County School District 1 Superintendent Jay Curtis and the board of trustees discussed during a work session Tuesday evening the implementation of policies regarding staff training if the bill does pass.

“If that [bill] were to pass in its original form, that would mean that any teacher or staff member or coach, or anybody that wanted to could have a firearm on campus,” Curtis said. “And you all know my stance. I'm very pro concealed carry. However, I also understand the liability that could go along with just having free rein for any employee that wanted to carry at any time.”

Curtis added that he believes it will “sail through the Senate” and advised that as a district they begin to think about passing policy that would require training and notification from staff who choose to carry.

“I also agree that most people need training and people who aren’t qualified to carry a gun shouldn’t,” Trustee Dustin Paul said. “But if they're a good person with it, I think it's a good thing. It could be used for good, it just depends on how (the bill is) written and how we can use it — I guess we’ll see.”

While superintendent in Meeteetse, Curtis advocated for concealed carry due to the school’s distance from law enforcement and long response time and while he does not necessarily oppose concealed carry in Powell, there are more factors to consider, he said, including a quick response time from Powell PD and larger buildings that may limit the effectiveness of staff.

“That doesn't mean that because I'm in Powell I'm opposed to it. I just mean that it gets a little bit more complicated, there are also logistics involved in it that kind of reduce the likelihood that having a staff member with a firearm would even be effective … our buildings are very large and I know just from talking to other school districts who have adopted these policies, that the number of staff who choose to carry is extraordinarily low,” Curtis said.