65th Legislative Session kicks off sans HB0059
The question of whether a person can be disqualified from owning firearms based on their mental health competencies is no longer up for debate in this legislative session after Campbell County Republican Rep. Bill Pownall pulled his proposed HB0059 last week, citing a lack of support from his fellow legislators.
Pownall felt it was the wrong time to put forth such legislation.
“I knew the chances of getting it passed were not good,” he wrote in an email to County 17 Monday morning. “I did not want to waste time this session as it is a budget session, and I wanted to focus on that.”
Prior to his pulling the bill, Pownall had been pummeled on social media by a handful of gun lobby groups both in and outside of the state, like Texas-based 2nd Amendment Daily News who referred to Pownall as “a disgraced former sheriff,” whose “absolute trash bill would dump as many names as possible into the Federal NICS database.”
This mischaracterization of Pownall’s bill was in reference to an earlier piece of legislation proposed by the Joint Judiciary Committee last October that would have changed the state’s mental health reporting guidelines to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which was also killed after drawing heavy scrutiny from pro-gun rights groups.
As Pownall explained to his colleagues at the Legislative Luncheon in Gillette on Feb. 1, he was pretty surprised by the backlash he received online that had been mostly reported to him by his children.
“They said I was being called all kinds of things I don’t want to repeat,” he said, “but it was all being driven by a false narrative.”
Much of the backlash had no bearing on the actual bill itself, he noted, but instead was being misconstrued based on false information.
“I had no idea that this bill would be so controversial,” he said. “People were putting out a lot of information that wasn’t even true.”
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His intention, he explained, was to prevent violent offenders who had been found not fit to stand trial for reasons of mental insanity from owning firearms while also providing a legal process for those who had been disqualified from owning firearms due to mental health to get their rights back.
Regardless, Pownall said his decision to pull the bill for now had nothing to do to pressure from gun lobby groups.
“My reason (for pulling the bill) was not because of them,” he wrote in the email, “as I knew they were not being truthful about the bill.”
Another firearm bill that seems to be getting more traction from local legislators is HB0028, which was introduced by Republican Majority Whip, Rep. Tyler Lindholm of Crook and Weston counties, and co-sponsored by a dozen other legislators, and would put into place preemptive regulations that prohibits government entities from engaging in firearm buyback programs.
Mostly preemptive, according to co-sponsor Rep. Scott Clem who also spoke at the Legislative Luncheon earlier this month, the impetus of the bill stemmed from liberal talking points, particularly from former leading Democrat candidates like Beto O’Rourke, who if elected, promised to impose mandatory gun buyback programs.
House Bill 28 would prohibit government entities in Wyoming from operating any such buyback programs, which Clem, and County Commissioner Del Shelstead, who also voiced concern at the luncheon for legislators, agreed would be a good thing.
“It’s only a matter of time before a liberal gets into office,” Shelstead said, “and then it’s going to happen fast.”