Wyoming delegation resists new gun laws

The Las Vegas shooting shook the country. It did not, however, change the view of Wyoming’s congressional delegation about limits on guns.

“Every day across Wyoming, we responsibly exercise our right to keep and bear arms,” U.S. Sen. John Barrasso said via email. “I will continue to support policies that protect our constitutional right to protect our homes and families. Right now our focus should be on [the families impacted by the shooting] and providing law enforcement with the federal resources needed to investigate this tragedy.”

There are three gun bills being debated in various committees in the U.S. House of Representatives: the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, better known as the SHARE Act; the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017; and the Gun Show Loophole Closing Act of 2017.

On the surface the SHARE Act seeks “to provide for the preservation of sportsmen’s heritage and enhance recreation opportunities on federal land, and for other purposes,” the bill reads.

Further into the bill, however, is language that would loosen restrictions on suppressors, or what some people call silencers, purportedly to reduce the threat to hunters of hearing loss, and the deregulation of sales of armor-piercing bullets.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney sponsored the SHARE act — which was supposed to be voted on June 14, the same day a gunman opened fired on a congressional baseball game in Washington, D.C. — and the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017. That bill would amend the federal criminal code to allow a qualified person to carry a concealed handgun into any other state that allows people to carry concealed firearms.

The bill specifies that a qualified person who lawfully carries or possesses a concealed handgun in another state is not subject to the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm in a school zone, and may carry or possess the concealed handgun in federally owned lands that are open to the public.

“My first priority regarding any current and future firearm legislation in the House will always be to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens in Wyoming to keep and bear arms,” Cheney wrote in a statement to the News&Guide.

“The SHARE Act is incredibly beneficial to sportsmen and women in Wyoming,” she wrote. “It allows them more access and opportunity to responsibly engage in their Second Amendment rights on federal lands. Similarly, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act protects the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Wyoming citizens as they cross state lines.”

Before a speech at the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 6, a group of 10 Wyoming residents protested Cheney’s support of the bill.

“As a state of avid hunters, anglers, campers and fishers, we refuse to allow our sports and concerns on hunter safety to be weaponized by Congresswoman Cheney,” Sara Burlingame of Wyoming Equality said in a statement. “This legislation would endanger the lives of everyday Wyomingites and law enforcement by easing restrictions on interstate gun transportation, the sale of suppressors or ‘silencers,’ and the classification of armor-piercing ammunition. Congresswoman Liz Cheney needs to stop prioritizing the NRA and their funding over preventing mass shootings and gun violence in our country.”

A third bill, the Gun Show Loophole Closing Act of 2017, which is widely supported by Democrats, would require criminal background checks on all firearms transactions occurring at gun shows.

“Gun shows at which firearms are exhibited or offered for sale or exchange provide a convenient and centralized commercial location where criminals and other prohibited persons obtain firearms without background checks and without records that enable firearm tracing,” the bill reads.

Though he has not had a chance to co-sponsor the Gun Show Loophole Closing Act as a member of the Senate, U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi “believes we need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill,” said his director of communications, Max D’Onofrio.

“However, the right of the American people to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution,” he said, “so he also believes that Congress should not limit the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms. Sen. Enzi will keep those things in mind should the Senate consider any legislation dealing with firearms or firearms accessories.”

Additional legislation banning “bump stocks,” which the Las Vegas shooter used to modify his semi-automatic rifles to shoot up to 700 rounds a minute, was introduced to the House of Representatives on Monday by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Florida, and Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts. With widespread bipartisan support, including from the National Rifle Association, it appears the bill will have enough momentum to pass.

More comprehensive gun control, however, does not enjoy the same level of bipartisan support.