CHEYENNE, Wyo. (April 12, 2021) – Last week, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon signed a bill into law that expands “constitutional carry” in the state, further fostering an environment hostile to federal gun control.
Rep. Bob Wharff (R) and a coalition of 22 Republicans introduced House Bill 116 (HB116) on March 3. Under the old law, Wyoming residents could carry a concealed firearm without a permit. HB116 expands permitless carry by removing the residency requirement and allowing any person legally allowed to possess a firearm to carry it concealed in the state.
The passage of HB116 underscores an important strategic point. Sometimes activists will oppose small steps forward – such as permitless carry with residency requirements – arguing they don’t go far enough. But as states tear down some barriers, markets develop and demand grows. That creates pressure to further relax state law. Passing bills that take a step forward sets the stage, even if they aren’t perfect. Opening the door clears the way for additional steps. You can’t take the second step before you take the first.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL GUN CONTROL
While permitless carry bills do not directly affect federal gun control, the widespread passage of permitless conceal carry laws in states subtly undermines federal efforts to regulate guns. As we’ve seen with marijuana and industrial hemp, a federal regulation becomes ineffective when states ignore it and pass laws encouraging the prohibited activity anyway.
The federal government lacks the enforcement power necessary to maintain its ban, and people will willingly take on the small risk of federal sanctions if they know the state will not interfere. This increases when the state actively encourages “the market.”
Less restrictive state gun laws will likely have a similar impact on federal gun laws. It will make it that much more difficult for the feds to enforce any future federal gun control, and increase the likelihood that states with few limits will simply refuse to cooperate with federal enforcement efforts.
State actions such as passing HB116 lower barriers for those wanting the option of defending themselves with firearms and encourages a “gun-friendly” environment that would make federal efforts to limit firearms that much more difficult.