The Wyoming Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation Wednesday that would allow the lawful concealed carry of handguns on college campuses and in government meetings.
Both bills were passed out of committee on 4-1 votes and have already passed in the House. The bills will now head to the full Senate for a vote.
House Bill 136, sponsored by Republican Rep. Bo Bitman, would allow those with concealed carry permits to bring firearms to or near campus, including sporting events, without requiring the consent of school security.
“Self-defense is a natural right,” Bitman said, according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. “This is a bill that the people are behind.”
Some University of Wyoming faculty, students and community colleges voiced opposition to the bill.
“This is a clear effort to remove local control … for the administrators of the seven colleges,” said Erin Taylor, representative of the Wyoming Association of Community College Trustees. “This is a really big concern for the colleges.”
Psychology professor Carolyn Pepper argued that prohibiting firearms on campus would reduce the risk for suicide, saying research has shown suicide rates go down when access to firearms is reduced.
However, Wyoming Gun Owners representative Michelle Sabrosky, who has a daughter attending Casper College, said she wants concealed firearms on campuses as a safety precaution.
“Maybe we should be looking into why kids on the University of Wyoming campus are so sad that they want to end their lives instead of trying to disarm them,” she said.
House Bill 137, also sponsored by Rep. Biteman, would repeal gun-free zones in government meetings, letting people bring concealed firearms to those meetings.
The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports many of the campus carry bill supporters also supported carrying guns in government meetings.
Opponents said the bill could cause dangerous situations when heated issues are discussed in the meetings and that the bill essentially takes away local control.
NRA Lobbyist Travis Couture-Lovelady noted that Kansas lawmakers have already legalized guns in the state Capitol, saying there were “no issues and nothing happened.”
However, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal, a Kansas lawmaker did leave a loaded handgun in a committee room last month.
Several other states allow guns in government meetings, though not all laws are exactly the same. Some limit who can carry and some require permits.