State law does not prevent local governments from regulating guns manufactured outside of Wyoming, Albany County District Court Judge Tori Kricken ruled this week.
“To the extent that the Wyoming Firearms Freedom Act preempts regulation of firearms by cities, towns, counties, political subdivisons and or/any other entities, it does so only with respect to firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition that are manufactured in Wyoming,” Kricken wrote in her order for summary judgment.
The ruling came as part of a lawsuit against the University of Wyoming by Lyle Williams, a Uinta County man who argued it was illegal for the school to ban guns on campus.
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 Williams’ attorney, Jason Tangeman, argued is in violation of state statute, Wyoming Statute 6-8-401, which prohibits 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. UW’s attorneys also argued the statute banning gun regulations by non-state entities, “Section 401,” applies only to guns manufactured in Wyoming.
The gun Williams was carrying when he was cited was a Kahr 9mm semi-automatic pistol, manufactured in Massachusetts.
Prior to 2010, Wyoming statute indicated that “no city, town or county shall authorize, regulate or prohibit the sale, transfer, purchase, delivery, taxation, manufacture, ownership, transportation, storage, use or possession of firearms, weapons and ammunition.”
The law was then updated in 2010 to also include any “political subdivision or any other entity” as being barred from regulating guns. The 2010 revision also was updated to ban local governments from regulating the “carrying” of firearms.
However, those updates came as part of the Wyoming Firearms Freedom Act, which was mostly intended to exempt guns manufactured within Wyoming from federal regulation.
Written into that law was an applicability clause: “This act shall apply to firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition that are manufactured in Wyoming.”
By superseding the original Section 401, the 2010 gun law unwittingly limited Wyoming statutes on gun regulations to only guns manufactured in Wyoming, Kricken decided.
The applicability clause’s relationship to Section 401, Tangeman argued in a Dec. 13 filing, was an “unfortunate drafting oversight.”
But to then determine Section 401’s ability to regulate out-of-state guns was eliminated by the 2010 law produces “absurd results,” Tangeman argued.
“There are very few commercial businesses manufacturing firearms in Wyoming, meaning that the effect of the legislation would essentially not preempt any, and allow all entities to regulate firearms,” he said. “Moreover, this interpretation leads to illogical situations where university students, or guests like the plaintiff Mr. Williams, may openly carry their Wyoming-manufactured Weatherby on campus while other students or guests could not carry a firearm of similar caliber manufactured by Smith & Wesson.”
During the 2017 legislative session, statutes created by the Wyoming Firearms Freedom Act were updated to allow school district to create rules and regulations to allow possession of guns by employees.
However, Tangeman argued Kricken’s interpretation could mean those “rules and regulations could only apply to those firearms manufactured in Wyoming.
“If a school board made the decision to arm its employees, those firearms would be limited only to Wyoming firearms,” he argued. “In contrast, any prohibition against carrying firearms on campus would be limited to Wyoming manufactured firearms. … A school district would have no power to control firearms in K-12 schools so long as the gun were manufactured in another state or country.”
Tangeman is also a member of Albany County School District No. 1’s school board.
If the Wyoming Legislature doesn’t want its ban on regulations to apply only to Wyoming-manufactured guns, it’s the Legislature’s job to fix its mistake, Kricken said.
“If, indeed such is the case, then it is within the province of the Wyoming Legislature, not this court, to correct said typo,” she wrote. “The Legislature is more than competent to amend the current statutory scheme to remove (Section 401) from the act, should it deem necessary.”
Even if the Section 401 did apply to all guns, UW would still have the ability to regulate possession of firearms.
“The University of Wyoming is an alter ego of the State of Wyoming,” Kricken ruled. “The university does not function with substantial autonomy from the state government. Furthermore, its funding and spending are strictly controlled through appropriations made by the state legislature.”
UW, like all state entities, is authorized to regulation firearms, Kricken ruled.