CHEYENNE, Wyo. (March 11, 2022) – Yesterday, the Wyoming  Senate gave final approval to a 2nd Amendment “Protection Act” purporting to restrict enforcement of federal gun control. However, the language will do nothing to protect the Second Amendment in practice and effect. During the process, the House also rejected amendments that would have given the bill some practical impact.

Fifteen Republicans introduced Senate Bill 102 (SF102) on Feb. 15. The proposed law would prohibit the state or any political subdivision of the state from using “personnel or funds appropriated by the legislature of the state of Wyoming or any other source of funds that originated within the state to enforce, administer or cooperate with any unconstitutional act, law, treaty, judicial or executive order, rule or regulation of the United States government that infringes on or impedes the free exercise of individual rights guaranteed under the Second Amendment to the Constitution.”

There are two significant problems with this language that make the proposed law utterly ineffective in practice.

  1. It doesn’t tell law enforcement to stop doing anything they’re currently doing.
    Without specific instructions to stop enforcing specific federal gun control measures, merely telling law enforcement to not enforce unconstitutional federal gun control means nothing changes in practice and effect. State and local law enforcement agents and agencies will continue to defer to the courts to rule something unconstitutional before ending enforcement. As we’ve seen for many years, without specifically defining what types of federal actions the state can no longer help enforce, the status quo doesn’t change.
  2. The language only prohibits the use of state appropriations to enforce federal gun control.
    Even if there was a concrete prohibition on enforcement, this text leaves the door open for the state of Wyoming to use federal funds to enforce federal gun control. With billions of dollars flowing into state and local law enforcement agencies from federal sources, this almost certainly ensures Wyoming police will continue to assist the feds in enforcement even with the passage of this bill. In fact, the language was likely written to specifically allow state and local law enforcement to work on federal task forces to enforce federal gun control.

On March 9, SF102 passed the House with some minor amendments by a 43-15 vote. On March 10, the Senate concurred with the House version 27-7, sending the bill to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk.

“Passage of this bill just gives cover to the gun grabbers,” said Tenth Amendment Center Executive Director Michael Boldin. “It enables the politicians to grandstand on ‘protecting’ the 2nd Amendment, when in fact they’ve done absolutely nothing but protect the status quo of helping the federal government violate the 2nd Amendment.”

AMENDMENTS REJECTED

During the debate, the House voted down an amendment from Rep. Marshall Burt (L-39) that would have addressed these issues and given the bill some effect.

One section would have prohibited any Wyoming government entity from accepting federal funds for the enforcement of any federal regulation of firearms, firearm accessories magazines or ammunition. As Tenth Amendment Center noted in a tweet, “They love federal loot – that was stolen from the people in the first place.”

In voting no on Burt’s amendment, the House also rejected a ban on turning state and local police officers into federal agents to enforce gun control through deputization.

Rep. Dan Laursen proposed an amendment that would have specifically defined “infringements” and prohibited any state enforcement of federal acts that fall under that definition. That amendment was ruled “out of order” during the third reading.

FIXES PROPOSED

The bill sponsors have been aware of these issues since early on in the legislative process. There have been efforts behind the scenes to amend the language to make the bill effective by specifically banning state and local enforcement of federal gun control. Proposed fixes were drafted and submitted, including language to specifically define what constitutes an unconstitutional infringement, then ban all state and local enforcement of such acts. (see the full text of recommended amendments/bill language here)

All of that hard work was for naught. The Senate passed SF102 by a 22-8 vote without making the necessary changes. The House Judiciary Committee passed some minor amendments but didn’t address either of these two fundamental problems. That committee passed this fake 2nd Amendment “Protection” Act by a 6-3 vote.

Earlier in the legislative session, the Senate voted not to introduce an actual 2nd Amendment Preservation Act (SF87) that would have specifically banned enforcement of federal gun control. That bill failed introduction by a vote of 9-20.

WHAT’S NEXT

Gov. Gordon will have three days from the date SF102 is transmitted to his office (excluding Sunday) to sign or veto the bill. If he takes no action, it will become law without his signature.

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