It appears as though 36 of our state legislators have forgotten which state they live in.
Earlier this month, they sponsored a bill that defies a bedrock belief of Wyoming communities – local control.
Many of the 36 individuals sponsoring Senate File 75 – including our own Sen. Dave Kinskey and Rep. Richard Tass – are talking out of both sides of their mouths, paying lip service to local control but sponsoring legislation that puts more power in their hands in Cheyenne.
The bill would repeal gun-free zones across the state. The bill would allow those lawfully carrying concealed weapons in Wyoming to carry a concealed weapon into any public school, college or professional athletic event; any meeting of a governmental entity; and any meeting of the Legislature.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of the bill is that state legislators would make all the decisions when it comes to where people can take firearms. They would decide, from their desks in Cheyenne, if firearms can be brought into Meadowlark Elementary, Cloud Peak Elementary, Clear Creek Middle, Buffalo High and Kaycee schools.
What this bill says is that Cheyenne knows best, that they don’t trust local people to do the right thing. It seems as though these guys forget where they come from once they get to Cheyenne.
For decades, Wyoming residents have supported local control. Numerous studies have found that involving those with applicable knowledge and experience improves the quality of a decision. Typically, those with that kind of knowledge and experience are closer to the issue; in this case, law enforcement officers, parents, teachers, school board trustees in our communities – just to name a few.
This bill is no different from a bill sponsored by Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, that would prohibit counties from controlling the location, use or occupancy of a private school. Jackson-based billionaire Foster Friess is pushing the bill that would also override local control.
We don’t believe a representative from Fremont County or a senator from Lincoln County knows what’s best for Johnson County. They don’t know the culture of our community or the tenor of our schools. They don’t know how our local law enforcement interacts with our schools. They haven’t held public meetings seeking community feedback.
In fact, we don’t believe our own representative and senator should be the only ones making such an impactful decision. It needs be a decision of the community.
In 2017, Kinskey voted in favor of a bill that would authorize a school district board of trustees to adopt rules to allow district employees who hold a concealed carry permit to carry a concealed firearm on school district property. At that time, he said one of the reasons he voted for the bill was because it allowed local school districts to decide. We wonder what has caused Kinskey to change his mind and abandon the notion of local control. Does he no longer believe the people closest to the decision are best equipped to make that decision?
When that 2017 bill was proposed, local law enforcement was leery of it. In a gun incident, how would law enforcement know who the perpetrator is? Citizens carrying firearms don’t wear uniforms. Teachers don’t wear uniforms. Parents don’t wear uniforms. We must consider the unintended consequences.
This is a decision a community must make, and that includes law enforcement, parents, teachers and community members – not just legislators.