TO: All the persons who have communicated recently with the Governor’s office concerning the issue of reciprocity of Wyoming’s Concealed Weapons Permits with respect to other states
FROM: C.A. “Kip” Crofts, Counsel to Governor Freudenthal
Thank you all for your interest and input on this important subject. Due to the large numbers of comments/inquiries we received, it is not possible to give each of you an individual response. So I will try to generally describe and explain the situation here, and if you have further questions or comments you may direct them to me at the email address to which this will be attached.
First I would like to say that our Governor, Attorney General, Legislature, and most citizens of Wyoming are very supportive generally of all 2nd Amendment rights. But all of us in the Executive Branch of government are obliged to follow the law passed by our Legislature, regardless of our personal preferences. Here is a description of what happened, what the problem was, and remains, with an explanation of our plan going forward with this issue:
Background of the Issue:
Current Wyoming Statues (§ 6-8-104) provides that persons from other states are immune from our law generally criminalizing the concealed carry of weapons if “the person holds a valid permit authorizing him to carry a concealed firearm authorized and issued by a governmental agency or entity in another state that recognizes Wyoming permits, is a valid statewide permit, and the state has laws similar to the provisions of this section, as determined by the attorney general, including a proper background check of the permit holder.”
The difficulty that has arisen recently has to do with scope and meaning of the phrase “laws similar to” quoted above, and more specifically with how the various states handle the issue of prior misdemeanor convictions for controlled substance offenses or other controlled substance involvement.
Wyoming Statutes, in a further provision of the same section quoted above, provides that a Wyoming permit may only be given to someone “who has not been committed to a state or federal facility for the abuse of a controlled substance or convicted of a violation of the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act of 1971 [citing sections of entire act] or similar laws of any other state or the United States relating to controlled substances.” (Elsewhere in the law are other references to disqualification based on the person being an “unlawful user” of or having participated in “incidents involving” controlled substances.)
Wyoming’s Controlled Substances Act is a comprehensive act, and it includes misdemeanor provisions concerning the possession of small amounts and/or the use of controlled substances. (It contains felony provisions too, of course, but they are not relevant to this discussion because a felony conviction will generally bar any possession of a firearm, concealed or not.)
Several years ago Wyoming was reviewing the application of another state for reciprocity with Wyoming, and it was noticed that the state’s laws governing issuance of its concealment permits did not bar applicants in that state based on prior misdemeanor drug convictions. At that time it was determined not to grant reciprocity to that state because its laws were not deemed to be “similar” to Wyoming’s and for the seemingly obvious reason that it seemed inconsistent and unfair to recognize a permit holder (who might have a drug conviction) from another State, when the same person could not qualify for a permit in Wyoming. At that time it was determined to survey the laws of the other 49 states to see if similar inconsistencies existed.
That survey was completed on January 23, 2009. The results showed that eight other states have laws similar to Wyoming’s, barring applicants with prior misdemeanor drug convictions. Twelve states bar applicants for some period of time, ranging from three to ten years after the conviction. Eight states disqualify for controlled substance “use” under varying circumstances. Four states disqualify applicants who are “addicted” to controlled substances, and eighteen do not appear to have any disqualifier for misdemeanor drug convictions, or usage or addiction.
Based on the results of this survey, and the determination that had been made in 2007 when the survey was commenced, the Division of Criminal Investigation announced the change in Wyoming’s reciprocity policy that led to your concerns.
Recognizing that this change potentially had far-reaching consequences, possibly causing other states to withdraw recognition of Wyoming’s permits, and because the survey and comparison for “similarity” had been too narrow in scope by only considering the controlled substance issue, the Governor and Attorney General decided to rescind that change and leave things in the “status quo” that has existed for several years while we study this further.
The Attorney General plans to survey the other states again, and look not just at the controlled substance issue, but at the entire list of requirements for the issuance of a permit. He will then try to develop some understanding of what our Legislature might have intended by the word “similar” when they passed our statute several years ago, and do a more comprehensive comparison of the laws for “similarity” – looking further than the single issue of drugs. Obviously there will be differences from one state to the next, and that term (similar) will require some degree of judgment to be exercised by the Attorney General under the current statute. His survey may show that some states have more stringent requirements than Wyoming’s in some area other than drugs, and through some balancing or weighting of all of the criteria, he may decide that they are “similar” enough to satisfy the Legislature’s intent. He plans to complete that new survey, and arrive at some conclusion on that issue, prior to the time our Legislature meets next year. If it is his “determination” that some narrowing of our grants of reciprocity must occur under the current law, he will make that determination prior to the legislative session, so that they may change our statute if they wish.
At this time I cannot predict the outcome of either the Attorney General’s review, or what, if anything, our Legislature might do with this issue.