CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Faced with the prospect of new federal gun restrictions, the Wyoming House gave initial approval Wednesday to bills that sponsors say would exempt guns in the state from new regulations while possibly taking the fight to criminals who might choose to attack public schools.
The House voted in favor of a bill that would seek to block the federal government from restricting assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. It amended the bill to specify that federal officials who tried to enforce any ban would be subject to state misdemeanor charges instead of felony charges.
President Barack Obama has called for reinstituting a federal assault weapons ban following the massacre of 20 Connecticut first-graders by a gunman last month.
The House on Wednesday also gave preliminary approval to a bill that would allow citizens who hold concealed carry permits to carry guns on campuses of public schools, colleges and the University of Wyoming.
Rep. Kendell Kroeker, R-Evansville, sponsored the bill to exempt assault rifles and magazines from federal control. He said Wyoming should get its position on record before a new federal ban comes down.
“It is clearly a different case than trying to nullify something that’s already in existence,” Kroeker said.
Rep. Mary Throne, a Democrat and attorney in Cheyenne, said some states have tried such nullification laws in the past. She said such efforts were common in the years before the civil war and then during the civil rights movement, when some segregationist states tried to ignore federal law and practice nullification of federal laws.
“If we want to make a statement we can do it, but let’s not let’s not pretend that it’s consistent with the Constitution, because it’s not,” Throne said.