UW Old Main

Old Main is seen on the University of Wyoming campus. Laramie Boomerang/file

CHEYENNE – Students from Laramie High School lobbied for a bill to require a three-day waiting period to buy handguns this legislative session, but the Wyoming Senate overwhelmingly declined to consider the bill Wednesday morning.

The teenagers from LHS’s March For Our Lives group traveled to Cheyenne on Wednesday to attend the legislative session and discuss the bill with legislators. The students hoped that if a three-day waiting period for handgun purchases was enacted, it might deter their peers from impulsively killing themselves during a moment of despair.

Shortly before the Senate voted on the bill, the LHS students sat in the chamber’s gallery and received a rousing ovation from legislators when they were introduced by Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie.

“They are some incredible hardworking students, and some of our best and brightest in Wyoming,” Rothfuss said.

However, the Senate immediately rejected the bill, with only two of the 30 senators voting in favor of even having a committee hear the bill.

Rothfuss and Sen. Mike Gierau, D-Jackson, were the only “aye” votes.

Rothfuss noted that Wyoming has the nation’s third highest rate of suicide, and the success rate of suicide is much higher when a handgun is involved.

“Obviously, this isn’t a total solution. It’s not intended to be. It’s intended to be a step in the direction of suicide prevention,” Rothfuss said. “If you try to commit suicide by an alternative means, often times you survive, it’s identified as a crisis, and you’re able to seek counseling and support. … This is not about trying to take anyone’s guns away or not being able to have a firearm, but it’s to prevent that circumstance where somebody thinks ‘I just can’t take it any longer, and I’m going to go buy a gun and end it.’ It might save a life.”

Sen. Liisa Anselmi-Dalton, D-Rock Springs, initially voted in favor of sending the bill to a committee, but then changed her vote to “no” when in became clear the bill had no chance of being introduced.

Legislators have been under enormous pressure from gun advocates during the last week to not consider any gun control measures.

Rothfuss agreed to sponsor the bill proposed by the LHS students, but the bill had no co-sponsors in the Senate. Albany County’s one other senator, Republican Glenn Moniz, voted against considering the bill.

Two of Laramie’s representatives in the House signed on to co-sponsor the bill: Democrat Cathy Connolly and Republican Dan Furphy.

Guns on UW campus

Wednesday morning, the Senate also narrowly voted against considering a bill that would ban the University of Wyoming from regulating guns on campus.

That bill was sponsored by Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, and had the backing of the Legislature’s staunchest gun advocates.

For the Senate to consider the bill, two-thirds of the chamber would’ve needed to vote in favor of introducing the bill. However, only 16 of 30 senators voted in favor.

Bouchard’s 2020 version of the “repeal gun-free zones” bill would also explicitly allow the concealed carry of guns in any UW facility, including the school’s athletic events.

However, the proposal isn’t entirely dead, as a mirror bill is still awaiting an introductory vote in the House.

If the House bill were ultimately successful, it would negate the need for any continued litigation over the legality of UW’s gun regulations.

After a hearing earlier this month, Albany County Circuit Court Judge Robert Castor sent the court case over UW’s gun ban back District Court Judge Tori Kricken to decide whether UW’s rules comply with state statute. Further action in the case is still pending.

Wyoming statute decrees that only the state has authority to regulate guns and that “no city, town, county, political subdivision or any other entity shall authorize, regulate or prohibit … carrying or possession of firearms.”

The main legal question of the case is whether UW is part of the state, or if it is considered a “political subdivision or any other entity” for the purpose of regulating guns.

The bill awaiting introduction in the House would make it clear that only the Legislature can regulate guns.

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