This morning the Senate Education Committee took no action on House Bill 105 – Citizens’ and Students’ Self-Defense Act leaving the bill to die a procedural death without making it to the Senate floor.
Previously the bill made it out of the House. That version carried an amendment that permanent school employees with a concealed carry permit could carry in K-12 schools after notifying the superintendent and principal in charge.
Testimony in opposition of HB 105 came primarily from University of Wyoming employees, including President Tom Buchanan. Last week he sent a letter to Rep. Mark Semlek (R-Moorcroft) saying in part, “weapons on campus will pose increased risks for students and faculty, will not deter future attacks, and will lead to confusion in emergency situations.”
Buchanan also thought that the presence of concealed weapons in classrooms could stifle discourse, particularly from UW faculty delivering “unwelcome news” to students. “Firearms in the classroom will have a chilling effect and unacceptable impact on education,” Buchanan said.
(The entire letter from president Buchanan is at the bottom of this article.)
Joel Defebaugh, president of the Associated Students of UW, agreed with Buchanan’s position. “The academic freedom, and the pursuit of knowledge, the healthy discourse that we have on campuses and in classrooms bears no grounds for the fear of firearms from any of our peers,” Defebaugh said.
Defebaugh also thought student safety is best left in the hands of campus security officers, rather than in students who are “packing heat.”
“I know there are students on our campus that would support concealed carry on campus,” Defebaugh said. “We have to think about the future and the welfare of the students, and I think we can take care of them better, than with them carrying their own weapons.”
On the other side of the argument stood second-amendment proponents, including Anthony Bouchard of the Wyoming Gun Owners Association. He testified that gun-free zones don’t ensure safe campus environments.
“What we’re doing with these kind of laws is keeping the ones that will abide with laws out. Time and time again, it’s the one who’s the blood-thirsty killer that keeps going on these gun free zones, schools and campuses,” Bouchard said.
Bouchard based his support of the bill on the Second Amendment and the state constitution. “We all have a right to defend ourselves,” he said. “Article 1 section 24 (of the Wyoming Constitution) says, ‘you have a right to keep and bear arms and it shall not be denied.’ It doesn’t say, ‘but if the school board or if a college administrator thinks different.'”
Bouchard thought the the Senate Education Committee letting the bill die without a vote sent a clear message. “It’s not just a death, that was a vote. When people fail to move a bill forward, that’s a solid no vote out of that committee,” he said.