Skip to comments.City of Casper passes landmark ordinance(WY)
Posted on 12/27/2011 6:15:28 AM PST by marktwain
Everyone will have to hang their guns at the door before entering the Casper City Council chambers under a new ordinance passed last week.
In a five-to-four vote, the council approved a controversial measure that prohibits bringing a firearm or other deadly weapon into any public city government meeting.
The law drew the ire of a number of gun rights and constitutional groups, and is expected to be challenged in the state legislature and also the courts.
Well bring a suit forth, said Anthony Bouchard, executive director of Wyoming Gun Owners, following the meeting. But were going to look at all the angles first. If we could do something legislatively, well work in that venue first.
In an hour-and-a-half hearing prior to the third and final vote, several audience members spoke for and against the ban.
James Madison said there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and threatening action, said Casper resident Doug Bergeron in opposition to the measure. This would be one of those steps. Its just an encroachment; its the failure to obey the supreme law of the land, the federal and state Constitution both claimed to be that.
The second question is, Do gun bans work? Begeron went on to ask. The answer is no, and I have about six cases of facts and statistics and evidence that guns bans not only dont work, but ... many times have a negative impact on crime.
Bergeron suggested rather than pass what he believed was an unconstitutional ordinance, having police at every meeting would be a more effective deterrent.
All you have to do is put a sign in front of every door that, for your protection, there will be two police officers in every city council meeting. Thats the only thing that will stop this kind of attack.
Meanwhile, his wife, Linda, suggested if the council was afraid, that a bullet-proof partition be erected.
Laws dont really bind the criminal as much as they bind the individual citizen, so that bullet-proof partition would actually protect you. The paper and ordinance would really not do too much, she said.
This is serious business folks, this is about not just rights, but responsibilities, said another Casper resident, Alan Crowder, noting some people carry weapons because they need protection outside of council meetings. Can you guarantee a businessman or doctor or a lawyer who may have either done something that somebody doesnt like or something, can you guarantee theyll be protected between the council chambers and their vehicle? This ordinance keeps them from being able to protect themselves, yet are you guys going to take the responsibility? You know youve got to ask yourself questions like this.
Crowder further questioned the reason only police would have weapons in the meetings.
If we didnt have weapons in here, why should police be here with weapons when they can be used to intimidate us, or attempt to intimidate us, to keep us from being able to say things we think, or daresay, criticize any councilor? Crowder said.
Not everyone who spoke was against the ordinance. R.C. Johnson said it sets an example of good government, particularly for children.
I would hope you would welcome children to this council chamber, and want them here to see the deliberations as a proper use of tools; were talking about tools and rules, Johnson said.
It has nothing to do with anybodys right to own a gun, or the sale of guns, its only saying, Hey, weve got our rules, and this is what were adding to our rules, to what you need to abide by in order to come before the body, Johnson went on to say. If Im not mistaken, there was one councilman who suggested if someone who wanted to have open carry, we have a policeman escort them to the podium. Think of children seeing that, that there are some persons who have to be escorted down because they have the potential of being dangerous. Or, is this an open body where everybody can come and present their arguments.
Casper resident Susan Graham took another side of the issue, however, in opposition to the ban, saying children need to learn theres also a place for self-defense.
The council also came under criticism for its handling of the issue. Bouchard was particularly critical of Vice-Mayor Kenyne Schlager.
You know we sent e-mails out, and there were different responses to some of those e-mails that I find very offending, Bouchard said. Id like to ask the vice mayor, who actually said Mr. Bouchard stated some of his members were not stable. I would like to ask ... did any of you hear me say something like that?
If you go back to our city website, with the video, and review the video, I believe youll hear something like that, responded Schlager.
No, theres not something like that, Bouchard replied. What I said was that Im a pretty reasonable person, but some of my members arent ... I find it offensive that you take the words that I said and twist them into something else.
You say I cant be responsible for my members, injected council member Paul Meyer. That can be construed as a threat, Mr. Bouchard. Thats what I hear.
Bouchard also questioned a number of aspects of the ordinance, raising constitutional and other issues.
The Wyoming legislature finds that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right ... I dont think that could be any clearer, Bouchard said. Todays vote will be on the record. You can either vote in fidelity with the oath you swore, or you can do the opposite on the side of gun control. Many people will be watching.
Sen. Kit Jennings, R-Natrona, was the main sponsor of the bill last year that touched off the council debate over having guns in meetings. Jennings bill eliminated the need for a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Wyoming. While concealed weapons continued to be barred from government meetings under the measure, it raised the question of whether open carry guns should also be restricted.
At last weeks meeting, Jennings was asked about the potential inconsistency in the law.
Its not an inconsistency, because if the legislature wanted to ban open carry they already wouldve done it, Jennings said, while further emphasizing that the legislature has also claimed pre-emption over city councils, and other local governments, on the arms issue.
And if you look at what the legislature is doing and debating right now, its going the other way. And dont be surprised if you see gun laws coming out of the legislature that take towards more freedoms with guns ...
Jennings went on to say he didnt take on lead sponsorship of the legislation in order to protect guns, but the Constitution, more specifically the Second Amendment.
As I looked back at what was attempted in the other times that this type of legislation was brought up, it was all about the gun, Jennings stated. Well lets change this, well lets tweak that, lets make this a little easier here. It wasnt about the Constitution. So I agreed to take it on. Ill take it on, and Ill take it on protection of the Constitution.
So as you move forward with this, if you pass it tonight, you all know whats going to happen, youre going to get taken to court, or fight it out in court, and all that kind of stuff, Jennings said, while adding later at the conclusion of his comments, I admire you for being policymakers, and I thank you for what you do no matter how you vote.
In discussing the proposal before the final vote, Vice-Mayor Schlager said she regretted the tenor of the debate.
I think Im disappointed in this whole situation because we took an opportunity where we really couldve worked as a team, communicated and partnered with some of the entities, Schlager said. Im not referring to you Senator Jennings, I think Ive learned a lot of interesting information, and I very much appreciate it, but instead it became a campaign of calling, bullying and harassment.
Schlager proposed a middle ground solution might have been to put in a metal detector, ... then would that ensure that maybe there are absolutely no weapons?
Council member Charlie Powell said he supported the ban, but took to heart concerns that about further encroachment on constitutional freedoms.
I want to go on record saying this, for me it stops here. And I believe we have responsibility to maintain a certain tenor in this room, Powell said. So I will not support any future ordinances that would expand controls or increased restrictions, and I want to publicly say that.
Council member Meyer said a primary reason he was supporting the ban was because of e-mails and comments he had received from local constituents on the issue.
I got nine calls that said please, please, do this for us, Meyer said. So its not a man sitting up here going, This is my call people, you have to live with it. Im here to represent a hundred citizens, or a thousand, or 54,000, and I have to respond to their numbers, and thats period, the end of story.
Council member Kate Sarosy, who was consistent in her support of the ordinance, said her decision was based in some measure on citizen response.
This is the one issue, I think I mentioned last time, that Ive had the most unsolicited support for from my constituents, Sarosy said. I appreciate the arguments, but Im not persuaded that this ordinance is unconstitutional, so I will be supporting this.
Council member Keith Goodenough came out in opposition to the measure, saying in the 110-year history of the city, theres never been an incident in the council chambers involving a gun. He also noted gun rights werent the only issue where rights were under threat of erosion.
While I applaud the gun rights people for coming at this, Id like to point out theres a lot of other things going on that have eroded rights as well, Goodenough said, bringing in a proposed city ordinance requiring sales to pawn shops be accompanied by a personal photo. Why anyone should have to have their photo taken, and sent to a national law enforcement database for selling a piece of property that belongs to them, I havent quite figured that part out yet. But thats on second reading today, and third reading in two weeks.
Mayor Paul Bertoglio also voted against the ordinance, saying he also felt it was unnecessary, and an issue that needed to be resolved at the state level.
I dont see where this is going to do anything more than make us feel good for a little while, but the reality is, in the long run, its going to do nothing, Bertoglio said. It will potentially open up the city to spend significant sums of money on legal fees to discuss a constitutional issue which I still believe, as Senator Jennings said, its in the very initial part of the statute that says the state legislature has the pre-emption to address, and the jurisdiction.
In the final vote, council members Bertoglio, Goodenough, Maury Daubin and Bill Brauer were opposed, while council members Sarosy, Meyer, Powell, Kim Holloway and Schalger voted in favor.
The council made two last-minute amendments. One would sunset the bill if the Wyoming legislature approves open-carry weapons in its chambers (theyre currently banned under a governors executive order), and the other would exclude pocket knives from the definition of prohibited deadly weapons.
Following the meeting, Jennings said he felt state pre-emption of gun rights regulation was clearly stated in the law, and he fully expected a challenge of the measure.
While the pre-emption tells them they dont have the authority to do what they just did, and I read that to them, any lawsuits that go out there will probably go more on the pre-emption than on the Second Amendment and the State Constitution, Jennings said.
Jennings said he had no plans to bring any gun bills related to the city decision in the upcoming legislature, noting it was a shorter budget session.
I dont know that I have a next step as far as what the city council has decided to do, Jennings said. This [involves] groups beyond my control. Youve got the Wyoming Gun Owners Association, the NRA, the Second Amendment Foundation. Youve got all kinds of groups out there that arent going to be happy with this, and this is a landmark decision.
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Posted in News on Monday, December 26, 2011 9:41 am Updated: 11:21 am. | Tags: Casper City Council, Anthony Bouchard, Kit Jennings, Doug Bergeron, Paul Meyer, Alan Crowder, Kenyne Schlager, Charlie Powell, Susan Graham, Kate Sarosy, Keith Goodenough, Paul Bertoglio, Second Amendment To The United States Constitution, Gun Control, Maury Daubin, Bill Brauer, Kim Holloway, Wyoming Gun Owners Association, Nra, Second Amendment Foundation,
Personally, I think you end up with much better decisions from the council when there’s a high probability that the attendees might be armed.
Two words: Gabby Giffords. If the city is going to do this, then there had better be an armed LEO at all council meetings.
Ya know, in the hands of a skilled and/or determined man or woman, a ballpoint pen, a good umbrella or a tightly rolled “Cosmo” is a deadly weapon.
Ummmm... Gabby wasn’t at a city council meeting. “X”. Try again.
Irrelevant. The point is that no one was around who could protect Gabby when a nutjob attacked. Nor was any law going to stop her attacker.
Which is WY’s most liberal city — Rock Springs, Laramie, Casper, Jackson, which one?