Wyoming Governor Vetoes Concealed Carry Bill, Sparking Republican Anger

By: Lauren | Last updated: Apr 08, 2024

One of the most intense and important debates in the United States is regarding the right to own and carry a firearm. While many Americans believe it is and always should be a Constitutional right, others argue that with increasing gun violence throughout the nation, its laws need to be re-evaluated.

In the state of Wyoming, a famously pro-gun state, Governor Mark Gordon just vetoed an incredibly controversial concealed carry bill, and many of his constituents are not thrilled.

Wyoming’s Concealed Carry Bill

Wyoming is known throughout the US as the “Cowboy State.” As many other states have changed their laws and even culture over the past century, Wyoming has tried its best to remain wild and free, just as it was when it was founded.

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The “Welcome to Wyoming” sign on the state border

Source: @Colorado Department of Transportation/Facebook

For many Wyoming residents, that means being able to carry a gun wherever they go, even to schools and government buildings. Therefore, a bill was proposed that would allow them to do exactly that. Except, it was just vetoed by the governor.

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Gov. Mark Gordon Is Concerned for the Future of Wyoming

Gov. Gordon vetoed the bill, explaining he believed it would have extended legislative authority past the reasonable threshold. If the bill had passed, educational and state facilities would have had to request approval to ban concealed firearms from their buildings.

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Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon’s official photo/A man reaching to remove a gun from his waist

Source: National Governors Association/Shutterstock

Which Gordon believed was unconstitutional. His argument against the bill was that facilities should have the right to deny entrance to those with concealed weapons without having to ask the government’s permission.

Protecting the Rights of the Residents of Wyoming

In this way, Gov. Gordon is arguing that by denying the bill, he is actually ensuring more personal freedoms of Wyoming citizens and institutions as opposed to diminishing them.

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Close-up photograph of the first sentence within the US Constitution’s 2nd amendment

Source: Pond5

He is essentially arguing that the state shouldn’t be able to force institutions to allow concealed carry if they don’t want to. And that doing so would give too much power to the government.

Open Carry Is Still Allowed Everywhere in Wyoming

It’s important to note that neither the bill nor the governor’s veto restricted the rights of its Wyoming citizens to openly carry their firearms anywhere in the state.

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A black handgun rests on an American flag

Source: Freepik

With the exception of jails, courtrooms, hospitals, police stations, or on someone’s private property without their permission, bans still exist for concealed and open carry in each of these locations.

What Is the Difference Between Open and Concealed Carry?

That means that a person in Wyoming can openly carry a firearm almost everywhere; they just can’t conceal it in schools or government buildings.

A gun sits atop paperwork for a concealed carry license application

Source: Shutterstock

The difference between a concealed and open carry is quite simple. Open carry means the firearm is always visible to the public, whereas concealed carry means it is not clearly visible.

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Gov. Gordon Believes Vetoing This Bill Will Keep Wyoming Residents Safe

By vetoing the bill, Gov. Gordon refused the immediate and statewide approval of concealed weapons on the University of Wyoming campus and all other public schools within the state.

Old Main University of Wyoming September 2012

Source: Wikipedia

He believes that this kind of bill would have been detrimental to the students and teachers within these schools. But it’s important to note that Gov. Gordon doesn’t agree that Wyoming schools should be gun-free, just that people shouldn’t be able to bring in hidden guns.

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Increasing the Legislature’s Power

In vetoing this bill, Gordon said it, “erodes historic local control norms by giving sole authority to the Legislature to micromanage a constitutionally protected right.”

Cars driving down a street in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Source: Austin/Unsplash

“Any further clarification of the law, if this bill were enacted, would augment the Legislature’s reach into local firearms regulation,” Gordon explained. “The bill exceeds the separation of powers embodied in Article 2 of our Wyoming Constitution. I must, therefore, veto it.”

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Gov. Gordon Approves Fundings for Firearm Costs in Schools

Although Gov. Gordon vetoed the concealed carry bill, he is in no way an anti-gun governor. In fact, Gordon has passed several pieces of legislation extending gun rights throughout the state.

An empty classroom filled with wooden desks and chairs

Source: Freepik

The governor has established a reimbursement program to fund firearm-related costs for school security. As well, he prohibited the tracking of firearm purchases and banned red flag gun laws throughout the entire state.

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Gordon Signed Four Other Bills

Gordon may have vetoed this one bill. However, the governor also announced that he signed four other bills having to deal with gun rights on the very same day.

Governor Mark Gordon speaking into a microphone.

Source: MikesGroover/Wikimedia Commons

According to Gordon, these “Second Amendment friendly” bills were designed to enhance the right that Americans have to own and carry their own guns.

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New Wyoming Laws

These four new bills that Gordon signed at the same time he vetoed another have to do with the Second Amendment. These bills pertain to concealed firearm permits, as well as privacy concerns.

Very old buildings in front of snowy mountains in Wyoming.

Source: Judy Beth Morris/Unsplash

For example, one bill allows those who have had their right to carry firearms restored eligible to get a concealed carry permit.

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Wyoming Republicans Are Still Disappointed by the Veto

It’s no surprise the Wyoming’s Republicans, which make up a majority of the state, are disappointed by the governor’s veto.

Logo for the National Rifle Association in front of an American flag

Source: Shutterstock

They believe wholeheartedly that it is their Constitutional right to carry a concealed weapon anywhere that they chose, even in a school, if they have the proper permits. By vetoing the bill, the governor is single handedly restricting that right.

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The Far Right vs Gordon

In recent years, Gordon, a Republican, has faced increasing criticism from more conservative and far-right members of his party.

The Wyoming State Capitol building seen underneath a blue sky.

Source: Pete Alexopoulos/Unsplash

This latest decision to veto this bill has only made these members more frustrated with Gordon. Compared to these far-right conservatives, Gordon is considered a moderate Republican.

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The Wyoming Freedom Caucus’ Response

In response to Gordon’s veto, the Wyoming Freedom Caucus has condemned the governor.

A hunting gun on top of a bag.

Source: Alexander Andrews/Unsplash

“Instead of utilizing sound legal principles, the Governor parrots laughable, confusing arguments apparently crafted for him by those who have no understanding of God-given rights,” the caucus stated. “We know that this right comes from our Creator, not from the government, and that government (no matter how ‘local’) cannot take away something that it cannot grant. Government exists to protect your inalienable rights, not negotiate the terms under which they will be surrendered.”

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Gordon’s Past Answers

Many of these far-right critics also took the time to point out how Gordon has allegedly changed his position on gun rights — and, specifically, on gun-free zones — in recent years.

A close-up look of the Wyoming State Capitol building in the daytime.

Source: Pete Alexopoulos/Unsplash

According to a survey from 2018, Gordon checked a box that indicated he wanted to repeal gun-free zones. His recent veto contradicts this stance.

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Cowboy State Democrats Believe the Government Should Be More Involved in Protecting Its Schools

On the other hand, the few Democrats in Wyoming argue the exact opposite of what Republicans say. They believe that the government should absolutely be actively involved in protecting its students.

Logo for the Wyoming Democrats that reads “Wyoming Democrats Here for Good”

Source: @Wyodems/Facebook

They argue that if schools don’t choose to deny the entrance of concealed carry, their children are at risk of gun violence or even a school shooting.

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Supporters of Gordon’s Veto

While Gordon’s actions have caused some anger from certain aspects of his own party, others have publicly supported his veto.

A sign in the snow welcoming people to downtown Laramie, Wyoming.

Source: Farshad Ghorbanishovaneh/Unsplash

The Wyoming Education Association is one such organization that has cheered on the governor’s veto.

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School Organizations Back Veto

Many school organizations like the Wyoming Education Association have backed the veto, as they were worried it would successfully be passed. President Grady Hutcherson of the Wyoming Education Association explained this happiness they feel.

A close-up of many colorful school books.

Source: Kimberly Farmer/Unsplash

He said, “Our members expressed grave concerns about the danger it would pose to students to legalize the concealed carry of deadly firearms in our public schools. Guns have no place in Wyoming schools. Period.”

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Wyoming Has Only Ever Had Two School Shootings

What’s interesting about Wyoming is that it has only experienced two school shootings over the past 50 years. Which makes it the state with the second least school shootings in the county. However, 60.7% of the adult population owns a firearm.

Man carrying a gun as he walks toward a high school

Source: Shutterstock

Many gun rights activists have argued that this data clearly shows that increased gun ownership does not directly correlate with higher numbers of gun violence or shootings. But others say that it doesn’t mean schools shouldn’t still be cautious in order to best protect their students.

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Similar Bills

In the past, similar bills to the one Gordon vetoed have appeared before the Wyoming Legislature. In 2017, then-Governor Matt Mead also vetoed a bill that would’ve allowed people to carry guns concealed into government meetings.

A close-up look of stairs inside the Wyoming State Capitol.

Source: Pete Alexopoulos/Unsplash

Similarly to Gordon, Mead went against this bill because it was “murky.” Mead also is a Republican.

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Lawmakers Voting Down Bills

The state Legislature has also voted down similar gun rights bills themselves, even though they did successfully pass this latest one before it was vetoed.

An American flag and Wyoming flag seen in the Wyoming State Capitol building hallway.

Source: Pete Alexopoulos/Unsplash

In 2023, a bill was introduced to the Senate that would’ve eliminated gun-free zones in specific areas, such as government buildings. However, this bill didn’t go far. Eventually, it died after only going through a Senate committee.

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A Move to the Right

However, recent years have seen the Wyoming Legislature increasingly move to the right — and the far right. Now, the Republican party in the state is made up of more of these far-right members.

A bird’s eye view of a body of water in front of mountains in Wyoming.

Source: Dan Meyers/Unsplash

This move to the far right has even resulted in moderate Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature working to try to amend the recent bill. These amendments all failed.

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Wyoming May Adjust the Bill and Refile

There are already rumors that the Wyoming state government will be adjusting the bill and refiling it within the year.

The Wyoming State Capitol building at sunset

Source: WyomingCapitolSquare

It’s likely that the new bill will remove the immediate approval of concealed carry in educational institutions but keep it for state facilities like the Capitol building. But the state will have to wait several months to find out if those details are changed and if Gov. Gordon will even approve it.

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Next Moves

The Wyoming Legislature has already ended its session. Therefore, lawmakers will not have the chance to try to override this veto anytime soon. To successfully do this, they will have to call for a special session.

An angled view of the Wyoming State Capital in the daytime.

Source: Pete Alexopoulos/Unsplash

The Wyoming Freedom Caucus did call for this session. However, lawmakers voted against convening a special session.

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