CHEYENNE, Wyo. (April 1, 2021) – Today, the Wyoming Senate gave final approval to a bill that would expand “constitutional carry” in the state, 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 current law, Wyoming residents can carry a concealed firearm without a permit. HB116 would expand permitless carry by removing the residency requirement and allowing any person legally allowed to possess a firearm to carry it concealed in the state.
On April 1, the Senate passed HB116 by a 27-3 vote. The House previously approved the measure 56-4. It now moves to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk for his consideration.
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.
Gov. Gordon will have three days from the date the bill is transmitted to his office to sign or veto HB116. If he takes no action, it will become law without his signature.