Wyoming will soon become the fourth state in the nation to allow residents to carry a concealed firearm without a license or permit.
A law effective Friday, July 1, will authorize permitted Wyoming residents 21 years of age or older to carry a firearm without obtaining a permit or taking a handgun safety course.
This “constitutional carry” bill was one of the most controversial ideas the Wyoming State Legislature discussed during its session earlier this year.
Gov. Matt Mead signed the bill in March, deeming it “appropriate” for Wyoming, after many Senate floor debates regarding state gun control and the “right to bear arms.”
Under the old law, Wyoming residents were required to pay a $50 permit fee and an application fee for fingerprint processing, totaling $74.00.
According to Kevin Smith, deputy director of Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) at the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation in Cheyenne, there were 299 firearm permit applications from Goshen County in 2010.
Anyone who still wishes to obtain an official Wyoming concealed carry permit must demonstrate suitable training in the handling of firearms to the state, Smith added.
“The thing that changed the most was the fact that you are no longer are required to have permit, but what people need to understand is that they still need to meet most of the same criteria as if they had the permit,” he said.
Portions of the law affirm those who may not carry a weapon concealed or otherwise include those convicted of a felony or domestic violence, addicted to illegal substances or subject to a restraining order.
Many local hunters are still aiming to obtain permits to allow them to carry across state lines.
Ron Miller, president of the Goshen County 2-Shot Goose Hunt committee and an avid hunter, said most locals he knows are aware of the laws pertaining to carrying concealed weapons.
“In some of the metropolitan areas, this may change things more, but in this rural area, everybody’s got a gun under their seat of their car anyway,” Miller quipped.
Gary Kirchhefer, owner of Gary’s Gun Shop in Torrington and deputy sheriff of the Goshen County Sheriff’s Department, does not expect the new law to change the way he does business or to considerably affect the public.
He emphasized carrying a weapon should be considered a privilege and said that educating the community on the many specifications of the law is important.
The new statute does not allow people to carry a concealed weapon in the following areas: bars, schools, places of worship, law enforcement facilities, mental institutions, federal buildings (i.e. post office, banks, BLM offices) or government meetings (i.e. town council and county commission meetings).
A person who wears or conceals a weapon in these places is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a $750 fine, six months in county jail or both.
“The part that scares me is that some people aren’t aware of the law,” Kirchhefer said. “They think, ‘oh, I can carry concealed anywhere now,’ but you can’t. There are still guidelines and rules to follow.”
When the law goes into effect, Sheriff Don Murphy said patrol deputies will continue with their same safety precautions during traffic stops.
“Normally when we stop somebody, we’re always aware of the fact that they may have a hand gun,” Murphy said. “We’re just going to continue to do traffic stops the way we normally do them.”
Wyoming will now join Alaska, Arizona and Vermont in eliminating the permit requirement for carrying a concealed weapon.
More information on the new statute can be found at attorneygeneral.state.wy.us.
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