Wyoming Governor Vetoes Bill to Reduce Gun Free Zones

Wyoming Governor Vetoes Bill to Reduce Gun Free Zones, gun free zone iStock-Elisank79 1432356580

On March 22, 2024, Governor Mark Gordon vetoed Wyoming House Bill 125 ( House Enrolled Act 49), which would have eliminated many of the gun free zones which exist in Wyoming.

Governor Gordon (R), in his veto letter to the Wyoming Secretary of State, said: “The bill exceeds the separation of powers embodied in Article 2 of our Wyoming Constitution. I must, therefore, veto it.”

HB 125 passed with veto-proof margins in both the House and Senate. In the House, the vote was 57-7-1. In the Senate the vote was 22-8-1.  Wyoming requires a 2/3 vote of both chambers of the legislature to override a veto. However, House Bill 125 was passed on the last day of the legislative session, on March 8. The legislature has adjourned. Thus, the legislature cannot vote to override the veto because the legislature is not in session.

Governor Gordon, in the veto letter, indicated the idea of reducing the number of gun free zones in Wyoming should be left to local governments, school districts, community colleges and the University to consider at the local level.

Governor Matthew Hansen Mead (R) vetoed a similar bill in 2017, seven years ago.

Analysis: Powerful lobbies in the State of Wyoming have been opposed to this bill. They include the University lobby, the local government lobby, and the school/teachers lobby. The bill reduces the power of each of the three government lobbies: the government University, the local governments, and the government schools. The exercise of Second Amendment rights was historically curtailed in local governmental buildings while local governmental meetings were being held or when voting on election day. The government did not ban the exercise of the right to bear arms in local schools or universities when the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791.

Because House Bill 125 was passed with 88% of the vote in the House and 71% of the vote in the Senate, the bill will likely be re-introduced in the next legislative session in 2025. A close look at the Senate vote shows the bill passed a critical vote with a bare majority, 16 to 15. The key to moving the bill into law may be to pass the bill more than three days before the end of the legislative session. Under Wyoming law, if the legislature is in session, a governor has three days (excluding Sunday) to sign, veto, or allow the bill to become law. Once the legislature adjourns, the time to veto or sign bills is expanded to 15 days. In 2024, because the legislature adjourned on the same day House Bill 125 was passed, there was no opportunity to override a veto. If the bill is passed more than three days before the legislature adjourns, the possibility of a veto override exists.

The existing Senate leadership appears to be the major impediment to passing a version of House Bill 125. The Senate leadership gave House Bill 125 to the Senate Judicial Committee. The Senate Judicial Committee voted not to pass the bill 3 -2. The Senate, in an unusual move, voted to take HB 125 from the Judicial Committee and vote on it before the entire Senate. The House has been more willing to pass this reform legislation. As the exercise of Second Amendment rights has become more popular in the United States, restoration and recognition of Second Amendment rights have followed at the state legislative and federal judicial levels. Wyoming has been a leader in restoring legislative recognition of the exercise of Second Amendment rights.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten

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