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The end of most ‘gun-free zones’ draws near in Wyoming as lawmakers shoot down exemptions

Before passing the legislation, the Wyoming Senate rejected two amendments: One proposed giving public hospitals the authority to regulate firearms, another would have required concealed-carriers to notify school district superintendents.

Wyoming Highway Patrol officers gather before Gov. Mark Gordon's State of the State during the Wyoming Legislature's 2024 budget session. (Ashton J. Hacke/WyoFile)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — When Rep. Karlee Provenza arrived at the Wyoming Capitol this legislative budget session, three death threats were waiting in her mailbox. 

The Democrat from Laramie says she has watched people stand in the gallery overlooking the House of Representatives, trying to intimidate her “all day.” It’s likely that come the Legislature’s 2025 general session, those same folks trying to bully Provenza could legally be carrying firearms.

“In this space where I’m receiving death threats, I don’t necessarily appreciate the fact that everybody can have a firearm,” Provenza told WyoFile at a Democratic Party Caucus press briefing Thursday morning. “And I’ll have to make a decision about whether I want to bring my concealed firearm with me to the Capitol or not.”

Although guns are now prohibited, hours after Provenza’s remarks, the Wyoming Senate stamped its final approval on House Bill 125 – Repeal gun free zones and preemption amendments, which would put an end to state, county and town governments’ authority to regulate concealed firearms. It would also allow people to conceal carry in public spaces like schools and the Capitol. 

The legislation — which died in committee before an unexpected revival — is now one signature away from becoming law. Upon Gov. Mark Gordon’s signing, if it occurs, HB 125 becomes effective immediately. 

Representatives and senators tried repeatedly to alter HB 125, primarily to restore local control over gun policies in sensitive spaces like schools. 

Sen. Wendy Schuler (R-Evanston) didn’t even go that far. An amendment she brought on Thursday sought only to require that armed civilians notify the school district superintendent in writing before entering public schools. She argued it’s a matter of safety.

Sen. Wendy Schuler (R-Evanston) speaks in support of giving school district superintendents notice before bringing firearms into public schools. Senators rejected the idea in the closing days of the Wyoming Legislature’s 2024 budget session. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

“What happens if there is an active shooter?” Schuler said. Police or a school resource officer responding could encounter an armed do-gooder on the scene, not distinguish them from the person causing harm and put innocent people in the crosshairs. “This amendment is basically trying to escalate the safety,” she said.  

But Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne) opposed the measure, arguing a written list of concealed carriers is “bad for policy” and “bad for people’s privacy.”   

“If you’re concealed-carrying and someone knows it,” Bouchard said, “you’re not doing it right.”

The Wyoming Senate shot down Schuler’s amendment. 

Senators did the same the day before during HB 125’s second reading, when Sen. Bill Landen (R-Casper) sought to add in language giving public colleges and the University of Wyoming the authority to regulate firearms in dormitories and residence halls. 

“It’s unanimous among our colleges that they could use our help on this front,” said Landen, an emeritus employee of Casper College. “I don’t think that we want firearms tucked underneath mattresses.” 

During the 2024 budget session, the two chambers of the Wyoming Legislature agreed to remove restrictions on firearms in places like the Wyoming State Capitol. (Mike Koshmrl/WyoFile)

House Bill 125 does not restrict private parties or prohibit the federal government from regulating firearms on its property, but upon Gordon’s signature it’ll drastically alter where guns are allowed on state, county and town property — and in meetings of those governments and their political subdivisions. The final version of the bill includes specific exemptions only for athletic events where alcohol is being sold, facilities like the Wyoming Girls’ School and Boys’ School and areas where “explosive or volatile materials are present.”

The legislation does not explicitly exempt legal facilities like courthouses and police stations, but a clause in HB 125 does read it, “shall not be construed to … Allow the carrying of a concealed weapon into facilities where otherwise prohibited by law.” 

WyoFile correspondent Maya Shimizu Harris contributed to this story. 

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.