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Wyoming Gun Law

Claim:   The state of Wyoming passed a bill banning enforcement of federal gun laws.

PARTLY TRUE

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, January 2013]

Just saw a post on Facebook that said Wyoming passed a law that will send Federal officers to jail for two years if they attempt to enforce federal gun laws.
 

Summary:   The Wyoming state legislature has proposed, but not yet passed or enacted, a bill that would prevent enforcement of federal gun control laws in that state. If passed, the bill would likely be subject to constitutional challenge.

Origins:   On 9 January 2013, several members of the Wyoming state legislature introduced a bill to that body called the Firearm Protection Act (HB0104) which seeks to establish "that any federal law which attempts to ban a semi-automatic firearm or to limit the size of a magazine of a firearm or other limitation on firearms in this state shall be unenforceable in Wyoming":

Rep. Kendell Kroeker is the bill's main sponsor. Seven others in the Wyoming House and two state senators have also signed on as sponsors out of 90 total state lawmakers.

Kroeker said he expects Washington will push its current gun-control effort as far as it can. The Obama administration has made it clear it's considering proposals including a ban on sales of assault weapons, limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines and universal background checks for gun buyers.

"I think there are a lot of people who would want to take all of our guns if they could," said Kroeker. "And they're only restrained by the opposition of the people, and other lawmakers who are concerned about our rights."

Kroeker said it's clear to him that Wyoming has authority to make it a crime for federal agents to try to enforce a federal gun ban in the state. He noted state
resistance to illegal federal measures dates back to opposition to the federal Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.

"We're a sovereign state with our own constitutional form of government," Kroeker said. "We've got a right to make our laws, and if the federal government is going to try to enforce unconstitutional laws on our people and take away the rights of Wyoming citizens, then we as a state are going to step up and make that a crime."

Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, is a co-sponsor of the bill. He said his constituents are "absolutely terrified" of the prospect of federal gun restrictions.

Hicks said Wyoming legislators are getting emails from all over the country in support of the bill. He said many residents of other states are saying they intend to urge their own legislators to follow suit.

"Even if Congress doesn't do this, given the statements from the President, they will surely try to restrict firearms ownership through executive order," Hicks said. "I think that's the biggest threat we're facing."

Rep. James Byrd said he's opposed to the legislation. "If you want to pick a fight with the feds, let's pick a fight with the feds that's about something that means something," he said.

Byrd said he believes that if Wyoming passes the bill into law, it will lose in the federal courts.
 

The text of the bill calls for criminal penalties against any agent of the U.S. government who attempts to enforce federal regulations regarding personal firearms within the borders of Wyoming and declares that any new federal regulations restricting ownership of, or the requiring the registration of, semiautomatic firearms shall not be enforceable in Wyoming:

No public servant as defined in W.S. 6-5-101, or dealer selling any firearm in this state shall enforce or attempt to enforce any act, law, statute, rule or regulation of the United States government relating to a personal firearm, firearm accessory or ammunition that is owned or manufactured commercially or privately in Wyoming and that remains exclusively within the borders of Wyoming.

Any official, agent or employee of the United States government who enforces or attempts to enforce any act, order, law, statute, rule or regulation of the United States government upon a personal firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition that is owned or manufactured commercially or privately in Wyoming and that remains exclusively within the borders of Wyoming shall be guilty of a misdemeanor felony and, upon conviction, shall be subject to imprisonment for not more less than one (1) year and one (1) day or more than five (5) years, a fine of not more than two thousand dollars ($2,000.00) five thousand dollars ($5,000.00), or both.

The attorney general may defend a citizen of Wyoming who is prosecuted by the United States government for violation of a federal law relating to the manufacture, sale, transfer or possession of a firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition owned or manufactured and retained exclusively within the borders of Wyoming.

Any federal law, rule, regulation or order created or effective on or after January 1, 2013 shall be unenforceable within the borders of Wyoming if the law, rule, regulation or order attempts to:

(i) Ban or restrict ownership of a semiautomatic firearm or any magazine of a firearm; or

(ii) Require any firearm, magazine or other firearm accessory to be registered in any manner.
 

This bill has not yet been voted upon or passed by the Wyoming legislature. If it does pass, it likely will be subject to challenge in federal court, as previous attempts by states to nullify federal laws have been rejected by court rulings holding that the Constitution establishes federal law as superior to state law.

Last updated:   11 January 2013

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Sources:

    Roerink, Kyle.   "Gun Regulation Debate Heats Up in Wyoming."
    [Casper] Star-Tribune.   8 January 2013.

    Associated Press.   "Wyoming Lawmakers Push Gun Control Exemption."
    Billings Gazette.   10 January 2013.