Could a bill working its way through the Wyoming Legislature that would allow for the concealed carrying of firearms at University of Wyoming athletic events have unintended consequences for athletic programs?
UW Athletics Director Tom Burman said he has concerns.
“The additional challenges caused by the legislation in other states bring up concerns about what could potentially happen in this state,” Burman said.
UW could soon join colleges and universities in nine other states that allow people to conceal carry on college campuses, including Kansas University. On Jan. 31, KUSports.com reported KU athletics program is expected to spend more than $1 million out of its operating budget to implement new security measures at Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium, including metal detectors.
Starting July 1, The Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act will require state universities to allow the lawful carry of concealed handguns on their campuses. Though KU athletics continues to work on a policy that would prohibit guns at high-attendance games, the university is required to implement security measures at any facility or event where guns are prohibited. The Wyoming legislation specifically mentions permitting lawful conceal carry at athletic events.
“Nothing concrete has come down, but we’re watching the landscape and the things happening in other states where these legislative items have been enacted,” said Bill Sparks, senior associate athletic director of business operations for UW athletics.
House Bill 136 easily passed through the Wyoming House of Representatives, where supporters said allowing the lawful carrying of firearms on campus would make colleges such as UW safer. The bill passed 40-19, with one excused.
Albany County’s lawmakers in the House voted against conceal carry on campus across party lines. Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, Rep. Dan Furphy, R-Laramie, Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie, and Rep. Bill Haley, R-Laramie, all voted against the bill.
Burman said he is opposed to the bill. Though his view has evolved since the last time Wyoming lawmakers tried to pass a conceal carry bill that would affect college campuses and athletic events, he said he does not want to see fans carrying guns at UW games.
“A few years ago when a similar bill came up, I was concerned about how officials would react,” he said. “At the time, I didn’t know about the other states (and) universities — in particular, Utah created a concealed weapon law regarding sporting events in their state — I was concerned officials may say, I’m not coming to Laramie.’ I’m not worried about that now, but having said that, I’m opposed to a concealed weapon law that would allow people to bring weapons into War Memorial Stadium and Arena-Auditorium.”
Many at UW have also taken public positions opposing conceal carry on campus legislation, including President Laurie Nichols and the Faculty Senate.
A survey conducted by UW’s student government, the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming, found students are split nearly evenly, with a slight edge for favoring allowing lawful conceal carry on campus. Of 936 respondents, 48.7 percent said they are in favor of concealed carry on campus with 47.6 opposed. Just more than 3.6 percent said they are not sure.
UW athletic programs are part of the Mountain West Conference. Javan Hedlund, associate commissioner of communications for the Mountain West, said the conference does not currently have a policy pertaining to conceal carry laws.
“If it were to pass … that would be a discussion for our Board of Directors,” Hedlund said.
When states with schools in the Mountain West have passed conceal carry on campus laws in the past, Hedlund said the conference has left the matter to the institutions to decide. But if more states continue creating conceal carry on campus laws, he said it might prompt a discussion about forming a policy.
“We haven’t done anything in that situation as a league overall,” Hedlund said. “If it became more apparent across the league — now, all of a sudden, Wyoming has it and some others — that would be a discussion for our Board of Directors to figure out how they’d want to deal with something like that. ... It would be up to the Board if they want to discuss it, number one, and number two, if they discussed it and thought the conference should have a policy.”
Representatives from Utah State University did not return requests for comment by deadline Monday.