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House: Repeal gun free zones near Wyoming schools

CHEYENNE - A bill that would repeal bans on concealed carry firearms in Wyoming's public schools, community colleges, at the University of Wyoming and in many public government buildings passed introduction Wednesday in the state House of Representatives.

"Ninety-four percent of mass shootings, and I've seen all the way up to 98% of mass shootings, happened in gun free zones. Why? Because killers don't want bullets fired back," Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland, said of "House Bill 125, Repeal gun free zones and preemption amendments," which he co-sponsored with 11 other representatives and two state senators.

Gun free zones only make for "soft" targets, Haroldson said. Additionally, 81% of police, when polled, agree that teachers and staff should be armed in school.

"It is the easiest way to protect kids, they say. At the end of the day, you call the police too late," Haroldson said. With an affirmative vote of 53-7, HB 125 will head to the HouseJudiciary Committee for further review. Rep. Sandy Newsome, R-Cody, said that teachers in her area are already armed. "What happens when a citizen that is armed comes into our schools and is seen as a bad guy, or the guy coming in as armed sees a teacher that is armed? Do they think that is the bad guy?" Newsome asked. "In practical terms, what do we do when our teachers are armed in schools, and how do we protect both sides?"

Haroldson said he would be open to an amendment to address that issue, and that teacher training would be good in such situations.

Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, asked if the bill indeed allows for guns in the Legislature, but not in a courthouse. Haroldson responded that firearms, under his proposed bill, would not be allowed in corrections facilities or courthouses, but would be allowed in other government buildings.

Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, asked how the law would apply to an 18-year-old with a concealed carry permit who was still in high school. Haroldson said that 18-year-olds cannot get a concealed carry permit "unless we bring up another bill I have coming up."

Rep. Bill Henderson, R-Cheyenne, pointed out that the bill prevents private property owners from restricting firearms on their own property.

"We value private property rights pretty highly here in Wyoming," Henderson said.