Wyoming Governor Matt Mead signed HB 141 into law last week. The bill reforms state restrictions on First (freedom of religion) and Second (right to keep and bear arms) Amendment freedoms in the state. It repeals existing state law that bans concealed weapons in any place people are assembled for public worship.
Monday, March 12, Governor Mead signed HEA 34 (HB 141). This not a gun bill; it is a government bill. “Concealed Weapons in Places of Worship” is not about whether concealed weapons will be in places of worship or not. It is about whether church or state decides the matter, and whether it is enforced by guns or by the Word of God.”
Short of armed guards and metal detectors, the only people who can keep guns out of the sanctuary are the worshipers themselves. This is as obviously true as it is routinely forgotten.
Worshipers whose piety prohibits armaments in the house of God will empty purses and pockets of knives and guns without being asked. Those who see no conflict between piety and what is in their purse may, or may not, be corrected by church authorities.
It is an entirely different matter when the state enacts a law. These neither depend on religious sensibilities, nor on respect for sacred spaces and clergy. Rather, state laws rest upon the threat of fines and incarceration. Such threats may, or may not, persuade worshipers to leave weapons at home. But they definitely do invite secular power into the church.
HB 141 was wildly popular, passing 56-2 in the House and 21-9 in the Senate after barely making it out of committee.
The Senate Committee on Agriculture is composed of five Republicans. Two of them, Senator Paul Barnard and Senator Fred Emerich, voted no. Senator Fred Emerich voted against the bill on the Senate floor vote, while Senator Barnard changed his vote and voted for the bill.
The Senate Agricultural committee was the critical vote in getting the bill to the governor’s desk. A one-vote swing would have killed the reform bill. It often happens that way. Many bills which would pass the entire body are killed in committee, when no one is watching closely.
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