Saturday, January 26, 2013

This week at the Wyoming State Legislature: Guns, gays and abortion

Monday begins an emotional week at the Wyoming State Legislature. No less than five gun-oriented House bills will be considered. These bills are over and above the gun bill that's already been a hot topic, whether to allow silencers on hunting weapons. In case you missed it, silencers are still not allowed. Game wardens testified that the sound of gunshots is what allows them to catch poachers. The bill didn't make it out of committee.

Security has been beefed up at the Capitol as these emotional gun bills enter the fray. Today's Casper Star-Tribune reports that threats have been made in the lead-up to the debate. The main threat seems to have come from someone on Facebook who threatened the family of Rep. Kendall Kroeker, the source of several of these bills. The threat said that Kroeker has the blood of children on his hands and opined that someone should shoot the Rep and his family. Other threats were reported as "uncivil" and were from gun owners who thought that the House was trying to kill all the gun bills by bundling them together.  These bills call for the arming of teachers and make it OK to bring a weapon to government meetings. HB105 allows people with concealed carry permits to have guns at schools. Utah has a similar law. The idea is that armed teachers can be an effective counter-measure to lunatics with automatic weapons. I'm not a gun guy but this bill doesn't bother me. In Wyoming, I'm surrounded by guns. I don't feel safe and I don't feel threatened. This is Wyoming.

There are some gun bills that do bother me. HB103 aims to let local governments overrule any federal gun laws. This is just wild-eyed, anti-Obama paranoia. HB104's goal is to punish federal agents if they try to enforce gun laws that ban "semi-automatic guns, limit magazine sizes or other limitations on firearms." More NRA-inspired lunacy.

I'm looking forward to the discussion around HB168 and HB169. The first allows "people in domestic relationships the same rights as a spouse." The second "defines marriage as a contract between two natural persons, not between a man and a woman." These bills have Democratic sponsors but Republican co-sponsors. Coming on the heels of the 2012 election, these bills may have more legs than they have in previous legislatures. Wyoming is conservative but not fundie conservative. Its live-and-let-live traditions may trump right-wing religious tendencies. For supporters, the ACLU of Wyoming has up-to-date into on its web site, including e-mails for the members of the Corporations committee and other info on bringing marriage equality to the Equal;ity State. Wyoming Equality in staging a rally at 11 a.m. on Monday at the Capitol in support of the bills.

As expected, there's a an anti-abortion bill in HB97. That should go down in flames as both women and men are growing weary of old guys interfering in a woman's right to choose.

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