Guns At Council Meetings: Casper Says No, Cheyenne Says Not Exactly
A Casper resident told Casper City Council on Tuesday that people have the constitutional right to carry guns in meetings just like they do in Cheyenne.
A Cheyenne city attorney said the two cities aren't comparable.
And a Casper City Council member, who also is a retired judge, responded that the ban here isn't unconstitutional and guns in meetings aren't a good idea regardless what happens in Cheyenne.
"You can take your gun to the meeting in Cheyenne," Dale Zimmerle told the council on Tuesday.
Even though Cheyenne is "where all the liberals hang out," its city council follows the constitution and doesn't impose a ban in meetings, Zimmerle said. "I thought for sure they'd have one."
Well, yes and no.
Cheyenne has not enacted a formal ban on firearms at its council meetings like Casper City Council did in 2011, said Logan Sharpe, an assistant city attorney for Cheyenne.
"But Cheyenne recently has become a little bit unique because our municipal court has now moved into the city building, and they now hold court in the city council chambers," he said.
State law prohibits people from bringing firearms into courtrooms, Sharpe said. "So there's a little bit of a question mark there."
The dual use of the council chambers happened earlier this year, he said.
"We don't have a policy in place about whether or not the city council meeting that takes place after (court) business hours, Sharpe said.
The room has a metal detector outside council chambers used when court is in session, but it is turned off at the end of the day, he said.
"I believe if someone brought a firearm into a city council meeting, that the officers who are there, and they are there, would not cite the individual for violating any sort of a state statute or a city ordinance because there is none that prohibits them from bringing the firearm into that public meeting," Sharpe said.
"The issue that remains to be addressed is whether that space constitutes a courtroom after hours," he said. "That issue has not been addressed. I will admit it's been raised, but I guess it's to be determined."
New Casper City Council member Mike Huber knows a few things about courtrooms, because he was a Natrona County Circuit Court judge for 32 years.
With that background, Huber also knows the state's cornerstone document, and contrary to Zimmerle's comments, he said a ban on guns at council meetings is not illegal.
"I respect the sincerity with which you cling to your constitutional rights, but I've got to tell you that not allowing firearms in this council chamber does not violate the constitutional provision," he said.
Huber said he re-read Article 1, Section 24 of the Wyoming Constitution, which says, "The right of citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and of the state shall not be denied."
Huber explained, "What it talks about is 'the right to bear arms.' It does not say, 'firearms.' It says 'to bear arms in self-defense,'" Huber said.
The Council has an obligation to provide a safe environment for everybody who enters the council chambers, he said.
During his years as judge, he attended a lot of training sessions about courthouse security, Huber said.
Huber's careers as a circuit court judge started on second floor of the old courthouse at 200 N. Center St. That court moved to fifth floor of Hall of Justice in 1985 and moved to the fifth floor of the Townsend Justice Center in 2009, he said.
The court imposed a ban on firearms in the courtrooms and had Natrona County Sheriff's deputies attend hearings. But no other security measures existed such as metal detectors in the Hall of Justice.
City Hall should function the same way, Huber said. "In a room like this, which is just the same as a courtroom, the worst thing that you can have is firearms; the worst thing you can have to make things unsafe for everybody in here is firearms."
The only people in City Hall should be trained professionals, and specifically trained at courtroom and courthouse security, he said.
"The idea of allowing everybody to carry firearms in this kind of environment is absurd," Huber said. "It violates our duty to provide a safe environment to everybody that comes in here."