(Reuters) - Legislation that would allow people with concealed-gun permits to carry firearms into public schools and government meetings won easy approval from the Wyoming House of Representatives on Monday after a debate over rising gun violence in U.S. schools.
The bill, supported by leaders of the Republican-led House, would repeal “gun-free zones” carved out around elementary and secondary schools, as well as colleges and universities.
Passed on a 42-17 vote, the measure also would grant concealed-carry permit holders the right to take their guns into meetings of the state Legislature and local government meetings.
The bill must clear the Republican-controlled state Senate before it can be submitted to Governor Matt Mead, also a Republican, for his signature or veto. Mead has in recent years sought to welcome firearms-related companies to Wyoming by promoting it as a gun-friendly state.
Wyoming would not be the first state to enact such a law. Utah allows individuals with concealed-carry licenses to bring their weapons onto school property, and Texas allows teachers with such permits to do so if they have permission from the school district superintendent.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, seven states now have provisions allowing the carrying of concealed weapons on public college and university campuses - Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin, because of recent state legislation and court decisions.
Backers of the Wyoming bill argued it would increase the safety of children enrolled in Wyoming’s 48 school districts by allowing school employees, from teachers to janitors, to be armed in class and on campus grounds.
Supporters pointed to the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as a shooting in which lives might have been saved if school staff members had been armed.
“The only way to meet that force is to have legally armed, responsible citizens,” Republican state Representative Kendall Kroeker said.
Democrats and others who opposed the bill sought unsuccessfully to amend the measure to leave it up to local school systems to decide whether to opt out of their gun-free classifications.
Opponents also asserted that backers were raising “phony” alarms about infringements on constitutional gun rights.
Supporters like Republican state Representative John Eklund said: “I do want my grandchildren to be safe in school, and a gun-free zone is the worst possible option.”
Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Cooney