- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming residents with a concealed carry permit would be allowed to bring their guns onto school grounds and into most public meetings under a bill going before a legislative committee Wednesday.

Sponsor Rep. Allen Jaggi, R-Lyman, said established gun-free zones such as school campuses can attract criminals intent on committing violence against people they assume will be unarmed.

“The gun-free zones are where all the real bad, horrific things have happened,” Jaggi said Tuesday.

Jaggi said two of his sons are teachers in Utah, which for years has allowed teachers to carry concealed guns in schools. He said that state hasn’t experienced problems with the approach.

“I think the bad guys that want to do all the real bad things are thinking twice in states like Utah that have repealed the (ban on) concealed carry in schools,” Jaggi said.

In addition to schools, Jaggi’s bill would allow people to carry concealed firearms into meetings of any public entity, including legislative hearings. They would remain prohibited in courtrooms, and private property owners could still prohibit firearms on their property.

Similar bills that would have allowed teachers or others to carry concealed firearms on school campuses failed in last year’s legislative session. They attracted opposition from University of Wyoming officials and other educational groups.

UW Vice President Chris Boswell declined to comment Tuesday on Jaggi’s bill.

Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, an administrator at Casper College, said he has reservations about the bill. In 2012, a man used a bow and arrow to kill his father, an instructor at Casper College, in front of students in a classroom. The assailant then killed himself.

“We up at Casper, of course, are one of the schools that went through a pretty tragic incident,” Landen said. “And in visiting with our security, they’re not convinced that putting more firearms on that campus would have done anything to mitigate what happened there. So I’d want to listen to our law enforcement pretty carefully, and listen to those security officers on our campus pretty carefully before I would vote one way or the other on that.”

Kathy Vetter, president of the Wyoming Education Association, said Tuesday her group opposes Jaggi’s bill. The association represents about 6,000 educators in the state.

“We believe that school resource officers would be a better way to address safety issues and a number of other things,” Vetter said. “We feel that having people carrying concealed weapons at sporting events where tempers flare is not a very wise thing.”

The Joint Interim Education Committee has sponsored another bill pending in this session that would have the state cover the cost of sending teachers to law enforcement training to become resource officers.

Rep. Sam Krone, R-Cody, A deputy Park County attorney who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, said he supports Jaggi’s bill.

“Unfortunately, when we have such a patchwork of laws that say you can take a gun here but you can’t take a gun here, it’s really difficult to know what’s going on,” Krone said. “I personally believe that lawful citizens who have the right to possess firearms should be able to possess them wherever they want, so I’m personally supportive of the bill.”

Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie, is a lawyer in private practice who also serves on the House Judiciary Committee. He said Tuesday he opposes the bill.

“I’m not comfortable with people bringing guns into school zones,” Pelkey said. “I understand the argument against it, but I think what could result in a substantial increase in the number of guns in school districts could also result in a substantial increase in the risks posed by that.

“The common argument is, ‘well the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun,’” Pelkey said. “The problem is, we may also have a lot of inattentive and clumsy people with guns, and I’m not sure what we do about that.”

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