Monday, February 27, 2006

Wacky Wyoming Firearms Legislation.

The Denver Post reports on this fine piece of legislation that was recently pending in Wyoming. The proposed law "would have allowed hunters to carry automatic weapons such as machine guns into the woods. And to equip those guns with Godfather-style silencers." Fortunately, although the legislative proposal would have allowed the hunters "to have the automatic weapons and silencers, it would remain illegal to actually use them for hunting."

Confused? Yeah, so was the Wyoming Legislature, apparently.

One state senator stated:

"As a hunter, I know there's enough firepower in the woods right now to go after any game without automatic weapons," . . . "And a silencer? No hunter I know would ever even think of using such a thing."

The senator who introduced the legislation acknowledged that "No one understood it." Nonetheless, he "vowed to reintroduce the automatic weapons and silencer proposal in 2007."

Apparently the legislation is "necessary" because existing Wyoming law prohibits anyone from taking a fully automatic weapon or silencer into the "game fields or forests of Wyoming," nobody is clear about how to define the "game fields or forests of Wyoming," and the law prohibits even law enforcement from having automatic weapons and silencers, but "[s]ome law enforcement agencies in Wyoming do, indeed have automatic weapons" because "[t]hey don't want to be outgunned by the bad guys."

So this proposal would "fix" the apparent problem of law enforcement officers not being able to possess automatic weapons and silencers in the "game fields and forests" of Wyoming by throwing out the language in the statute which bans anyone from having such weapons there and replace it with wording that prohibits "tak[ing] any wildlife within the state of Wyoming" with an automatic weapon or gun equipped with a silencer.

According to the legislation's author, the whole point is just to allow law enforcement to legally have such guns. "It's not really about hunting at all."

I will freely admit that I am not a state legislator, nor have I ever been faced with the responsibility of drafting legislation. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the easier approach would be to change the law to say that law enforcement is excluded from the prohibition, rather than to remove the "possession" prohibition altogether and replace it with a "use" prohibition. Would it not be easier to simply amend the statute so that instead of reading that "No person shall take into or possess in the game fields or forests of Wyoming . . . " it reads that "No person, except for a law enforcement officer in the course of his or her official duties, shall take into or possess in the game fields or forests of Wyoming . . ."?

And I'm not even going to go into the other part of the legislative proposal discussed in the article: allowing archery hunters to carry guns to protect themselves from grizzly bears. Apparently there is an issue about archery hunters being prohibited from carrying a firearm because "a few" every year will shoot a deer or elk with a small caliber gun, then stick an arrow in the small hole and make it look like they killed it with an arrow. The existing prohibition to prevent that, however, means that archers are only allowed to carry pepper spray to protect themselves from rampaging grizzly bears.

All of this makes me glad I don't live in Wyoming. The whole place just sounds too dangerous.


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