Only the Legislature, not state agencies, can restrict gun rights in Wyoming, Laramie attorney Jason Tangeman is arguing in a lawsuit against the University of Wyoming.
Tangeman is now representing a Uinta County man, Lyle Williams, in a challenge to the legality of UW’s gun ban in a civil case filed in Albany County. Williams was cited in April after carrying a gun on the Laramie campus during the Wyoming State Republican Party Convention in April.
UW regulations restrict the possession of guns on campus, which Tangeman has argued is in violation of state law prohibiting gun regulations by any “city, town, county, political subdivision or any other entity.”
Attorneys for the university have argued that, as a state agency, UW is authorized to restrict gun access.
After all, the Wyoming Firearms Freedom Act provides that gun usage “shall be authorized, regulated and prohibited by the state, and the regulation thereof is preempted by the state.”
UW attorneys have conceded, however, that “the meaning of the word ‘state’ in the WFFA is ambiguous because it may mean the Wyoming Legislature, or it may mean other state entities.”
Now it will be the job of Albany County District Court Judge Tori Kricken to interpret the legislative intent of WFFA, which was signed into law in 2010.
Both parties have said a trial is not necessary in the case. There only needs to be a decision made by summary judgment, which a judge issues in lawsuits when there are only legal questions that need to be answered — not issues of material facts.
“Here the parties agree that there is no genuine issue of material fact,” UW attorneys wrote in a filing last week. “Either (UW’s regulation) violates Wyoming law or the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, or it does not. If it does, Williams prevails. If it does not, the university prevails.”
Tangeman’s arguments note UW’s status as a “state agency” murky.
The 1997 definition of an “agency” in the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act explicitly excludes UW.
“At a minimum, the University of Wyoming, as a governmental entity, satisfies the definition of ‘any other entity’” under WFFA.
Even if UW does qualify as “any other entity,” UW attorneys argue the legal question is not applicable to Williams’ case.
The WFFA was written to “apply to firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition that are manufactured in Wyoming.”
The gun Williams was carrying when he was cited was a Kahr 9mm semi-automatic pistol, manufactured in Massachusetts.
The convention at which Williams was cited was held on campus and Williams said he brought his firearm that day with the intention of receiving a citation.
A trial concerning his citation was scheduled for June, but Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent issued a stay on the criminal case when Williams opted to file his lawsuit.
Though many delegates chose to open carry at the convention, UW Police Chief Mike Samp wrote only one citation.
“Given the political nature of this and the sensitivity of the Second Amendment issue, I feel that that is a sufficient reaction to the policy violation at this point,” Samp said at the time.