WY: OPPOSE THE HIDDEN GUN CONTROL IN THE “RESTORATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS” BILL
The Wyoming Legislature is poised to pass hidden gun control in a bill labeled “Restoration of Civil Rights!” SF0120 has already passed the Wyoming Senate and its first hurdle in a House Committee!
This bill proposes to restore the right to bear arms to one-time non-violent felons in Wyoming. However, it contains provisions not necessary for doing this, and it actually revokes rights not currently revoked under Wyoming statutes.
The well-meaning bill sponsor, Senator Eric Barlow [R] from Gillette, has stated that the intent of SF0120 is to expand on 2017 voting rights restoration processes and also restore firearms rights to individuals convicted of one-time, nonviolent felonies. GOA supports this concept, but the story does not end there!
As stated in a recent WyoFile article, Barlow admits, “Wyoming law annuls someone’s right to vote, serve on a jury or hold public office if convicted of a felony, while it’s federal law that prohibits those individuals from owning or using a gun. Because there’s no congruent state statute for the latter (he means loss of firearms rights), the bill creates such a restriction — the idea being that the state cannot return a right that it has not revoked. If we don’t do that, we can’t directly restore [that right].”
To make a long story short, SF0120 revokes the firearms rights of non-violent felons, which is not done under current Wyoming law!
Proponents of SF0120 say they want to restore firearms rights to citizens who have paid their debt to society.
Even the Wyoming Department of Correction (WDOC) supports the concepts in the bill. “The data is pretty clear,” WDOC Director Dan Shannon told lawmakers, speaking in favor of the bill. “When individuals’ rights are restored, they become better members of our community and recidivism rates clearly go down.”
GOA fully supports the idea of restoring rights to non-violent felons who have paid their debt to society, but we don’t support passing additional gun control to do it.
Fortunately, there is a better path forward!
Based on federal statutes and case law reviewed by GOA attorneys, the procedures envisioned by Senator Barlow to restore firearms rights to non-violent felons can be accomplished without having to expand firearm prohibitions under Wyoming law!
Under federal statute 18 U.S.C § 921(a)(20), states are provided with an avenue to restore the firearms rights of their citizens. Specifically, the statute states that “any conviction…for which a person has…had civil rights restored shall not be considered a conviction for purposes of this chapter, unless such…restoration of civil rights expressly provides that the person may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.” This means that there are two requirements that must be satisfied for a person to qualify for restoration of rights under 921(a)(20): (1) civil rights must be restored; and (2) such restoration does not restrict a person’s firearms rights in any way.
Thus, the first step in restoring a non-violent felon’s firearm rights under federal law is to restore what federal courts have found to be the “key” civil rights that were lost. These rights are the right to vote, hold public office, and serve on juries. These are the same civil rights currently lost by non-violent felons under Wyoming statute 6-10-106. All that is required for a non-violent felon to regain their firearm rights under federal law is to first restore the “key” civil rights lost under Wyoming Statute 6-10-106 (the right to vote, hold public office, and serve on juries).
The restoration of these “key” civil rights would be accomplished simply by adding them through the amended restoration of rights procedure under 7-13-105, currently proposed as subsection (f) on page 4 of SF1020, and by leaving Wyoming statute 6-10-106 in its current form.
The problem is that SF0120 as currently written proposes to amend 6-10-106 to extend the loss of firearm rights to all felons. The bill should be amended to delete this proposed language.
The second step in the restoration process is to have no restrictions on a non-violent felon’s firearms rights in any way. Currently, only violent felons are prohibited from possessing firearms under Wyoming law. Since there appear to be no other prohibitions or restrictions on the firearms rights of non-violent felons under Wyoming law, were the amended restoration of rights procedure proposed in SF0120 to pass, non-violent felons should then no longer be subject to the loss of their firearms rights under federal law.
We use the term “should” here because, as stated above, the only restrictions on firearms rights under Wyoming law appear to be those on violent felons. However, to be sure that Wyoming’s civil rights restoration law complies with the federal requirements of 921(a)(20), the House should also amend SF0120 under subsection (f) of the bill to include language restoring any firearms restrictions under state or local law, to make sure that the second step of the federal rights restoration process under 921(a)(20) is satisfied.
Such language could read: “(f) All other rights a person has lost pursuant to W.S. 6-10-106(a), or the right to ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms lost pursuant to any state or local statute, rule, or procedure, shall be restored following the restoration of their voting rights under subsections (b) and (c) of this section.
Thus, with two simple amendments, SF0120 would be a true “Restoration of Civil Rights” bill! Without those amendments, SF0120 takes away rights currently not revoked under Wyoming law, then proposes to “restore” them later.
All firearms owners and Second Amendment advocates, even if not directly impacted by this legislation, should beware of any government efforts that seek to grant rights with one hand while taking away rights with the other. That is a slippery slope that can lead to a plethora of other attempts to restrict our right to keep and bear arms and other precious civil rights.
Please act now and contact your Representative. Ask them to amend SF0120 as proposed by GOA to avoid adding gun control to Wyoming statutes while also accomplishing the stated intent of this bill to “Restore Civil Rights.”
We need to make sure that we are not passing additional gun control in the name of “Restoring Civil Rights” in Wyoming!
Please click here to contact your Representative in the Wyoming House and encourage them to amend SF0120.
If SF0120 cannot be amended to remove expanded gun control, Legislators should simply set it aside until the 2024 session for further discussion.
Now is the time to act to fix SF0120 before it passes and becomes law.
GOA will keep you informed, so please be on the lookout for more e-mails from us in the coming days.
P.S. Please be watching for updates on this and other bills in the coming days, and be on the lookout for information about other GOA efforts that will protect and/or advance your Second Amendment Rights!
Article by Mark Jones