Court rules UW can prohibit firearms on campus
July 9, 2020
LARAMIE — The University of Wyoming has the power to regulate and prohibit firearms on its campus, and its gun policy does not violate the Second Amendment, Tori Kricken, the district court judge in Albany County, ruled Thursday.
This is Kricken’s second ruling in the years-long case of Lyle Williams, of Uinta County, who has sought to overturn the university’s gun policy through the courts. Her previous ruling was overturned by the Wyoming Supreme Court on procedural grounds.
Kricken ruled upon a number of separate points related to the university’s firearms policy: the law that pre-empts most governments below the state level from enacting their own firearms regulations only applies to firearms made in Wyoming, Kricken ruled.
UW acts as an arm of the state, so it is not included in the law that prevents most local or subsidiary elements of government in Wyoming from regulating firearms, Kricken ruled.
The university’s regulations do not violate the provisions in the United States and Wyoming constitutions that protect gun rights, either facially or as applied to Williams, Kricken ruled.
This ruling is expected to be appealed back to the Wyoming Supreme Court. Particularly controversial is Kricken’s claim that the Wyoming law blocking the local regulation of firearms only applies to guns made in Wyoming.
Williams was cited in 2018 for open-carrying a gun inside the university’s convention center during the state Republican party’s annual conference. Williams was one of many attendees who open-carried a gun with the intention of getting a citation and challenging the law.
Kricken ruled against Williams in 2018 on similar grounds to those in Thursday’s opinion, but that ruling was overturned by the Wyoming Supreme Court last September. The high court found that Kricken had improperly ruled in the case, as circuit court Judge Robert Castor had not officially asked her for help in deciding the legal issues at stake in the case.
That Wyoming Supreme Court decision did not address the legality of the university’s regulation, as the ruling was limited to the procedural errors. Two of the five justices on the court argued that the court should have considered the regulation at that time.
After the state Supreme Court remanded the case to Castor, he officially referred it to Kricken in January.
Since then, the university has joined in the appellate legal wrangling in the case, arguing that it does, in fact, have the ability to regulate or prohibit firearms on its campus.
The Wyoming legislature passed a law in 1995 that prevented almost all lower government bodies in the state from enacting their own firearms regulations, so that there would not be stricter gun regulations in one part of the state than another.
The legislature has exempted schools from this law since then, but specifically did not extend this exemption to the university, Williams’ lawyer, Jason Tangeman, wrote in a March filing.
Much of the university’s rationale throughout this dispute has been that it is a component of the state government, so it has the power to regulate firearms on its property.
Additionally, UW argued in a brief filed June 2 that the firearm ban does not violate the Second Amendment because the federal Supreme Court has said that many longstanding firearm regulations, including those at schools, do not violate the right to bear arms.
UW has argued that its regulation is only applied to guns that are carried within campus buildings or other structures, such as the football stadium. Williams was cited when he was carrying a gun within a building on campus.
Tangeman has argued, on Williams’ behalf, that the anti-gun regulation is particularly suspect because its broad wording seems to apply to all property that the university owns, including vacant tracts that the university owns throughout the state.
Kricken ruled that argument is not relevant for this case, as Williams carried a firearm within a crowded building on the university’s main campus.