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CHEYENNE – Supporters shook hands and pumped their fists outside of the House of Representatives chamber as a “stand your ground” bill passed introduction Thursday morning in Cheyenne.

One of those happy Wyoming residents was Laramie County’s M. Lee Hasenauer. In a bright orange shirt declaring “Stand Your Ground” in a bold font, he sat near the front of the public viewing area while the House voted overwhelmingly to support the measure.

Hasenauer expressed his delight for the bill’s introduction after the vote.

“It was important because you need to have the opportunity to stand your ground if the bad guys are coming at you, and you won’t go to court because of it,” he said.

More than 40 co-sponsors from both political parties signed onto House Bill 168 before it was brought for introduction Thursday. The legislation would take the castle doctrine, which doesn’t require a duty to retreat in self-defense within the home, and expand it. Essentially, it provides immunity from criminal prosecution from liability in self-defense-style shootings in public settings.

“This bill simply expands it so anywhere you are allowed to be, that castle doctrine comes with you,” Rep. Tim Salazar, R-Dubois, said on the House floor. “You do not have to retreat if you are in fear of your very life, the life of yourself or your family members. This bill is needed in the state of Wyoming because we’re the only state in the entire West that does not have it.”

The proposed law will enjoy the support of the Laramie County Republican Party as it continues through the legislative process. The local GOP unanimously passed a resolution calling on elected officials to pass such a law in mid-January. Hasenauer, a former Laramie County commissioner and Laramie County GOP member, brought the resolution forward last month.

Laramie County District Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg told the WTE in January that he generally supports “stand your ground” laws and believes the proposed legislation could be worked to become sound statute by the time it’s enacted.

Among Laramie County lawmakers, only Rep. James Byrd, D-Cheyenne, and Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, voted against the measure, which passed 51-8, with one excused.

The House version of the “stand your ground” bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, which includes Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne. The committee is chaired by Rep. Dan Kirkbride, R-Chugwater.

Another “stand your ground” bill will be considered for introduction in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne.

It is the second victory for gun-rights proponents in the Legislature’s first week. On Wednesday, lawmakers in the House voted to introduce House Bill 141, which would repeal restrictions on concealed carry in places of worship. Places of worship now only allow concealed carry with permission of a facility’s administrators, but HB 141 would make it so the establishment would need to explicitly restrict concealed carry.

The bill is also on its way to the House Judiciary Committee.

Byrd was the only Cheyenne lawmaker to vote against the concealed carry in places of worship measure.

Joel Funk is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at jfunk@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3124. Follow him on Twitter at @jmacfunk.

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