Second Amendment listening session set for May 3

Barbara Anne Greene

 With more and more groups approaching the commissioners about Big Horn County becoming a Second Amendment sanctuary, a listening session has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, May 3 at the Weed and Pest building west of Greybull.

Rep. John Winter, Sheriff Ken Blackburn and Deputy County Attorney Jennifer Kirk participated in the discussion on April 20 that led to the commissioners agreeing to schedule the listening session.

 “I feel very strongly in this political culture right now that we need to make a strong statement in support of the second amendment,” said Sheriff Ken Blackburn. “I’ve been asked a lot what I’m going to do as sheriff when the people come for our guns. I’ve said I’m going to give them my name and address first and see how it goes from there.” 

Kirk wrote a proposed proclamation for review. Blackburn commented that he thought it was good and would be a positive thing for the county to do. 

Commissioner Felix Carrizales remarked that he had attended the Big Horn County Republican precinct meeting recently, where becoming a Second Amendment sanctuary was discussed. The party had written it own resolution about becoming a sanctuary. Carrizales noted the conversation with the precinct people was very similar to the one at a recent meeting of county mayors.

He shared with them some of the reasons why the county wanted to be careful going forward on this topic. After some discussion, the matter was tabled at that meeting. He told them he would bring the issue to the commissioners and to make sure the document was written correctly for this county, to be careful with certain words, put some teeth in it and not compromise law enforcement in any way. He then asked them to send him the revised document and said he would make sure the sheriff and county attorney’s office saw it. Carrizales advised them not to just jump in because other counties in Wyoming were doing it. 

Blackburn explained that when Wyoming becoming a sanctuary state was brought up by the Legislature, all 23 county sheriffs opposed it. While each of the sheriffs are very much in favor of the Second Amendment, the wording in the bill said law enforcement would be “found criminally liable if we shared a gun with the feds for any reason, that we would be found relieved of any qualified immunity and that we would never hold a job as a peace officer again.” 

He continued that if the Wyoming senator who sponsored the bill, Andrew Bouchard, had included law enforcement in the discussion regarding the bill, the sheriffss wouldn’t have felt like Bouchard was throwing a shot across the bow at the people on the front line. 

Blackburn then gave an example. “We go out here, we have an originating traffic stop or any kind of a call with a gun. We secure a gun. We’re going to run that gun. It comes back that it is hot for mass murder here or there. You’re telling me as a sheriff I have a chance to stop a criminal or I have a chance to have a clue that will stop a mass crime of some sort that I’m not supposed to share that with an entity that can do that? Do I agree that I don’t want the feds coming in and trying to take our guns and all this talk that is going on? Absolutely. I’ll stand up against that until the cows come home.” 

He said he is trying to do a job that protects the citizens and he will use every means at his disposal to solve crimes and bring people to justice. “That kind of rhetoric of that kind of thing is very similar to the liberal ideas of defund the police. They want their garbage taken out but they don’t want to know what and how we have to clean things up.” 

 “I’m supportive of the Wyoming gun owners but don’t go throwing rhetoric and the lack of facts in on the whole thing and say that we are lobbyist or on the federal take. That is very offensive to me and that is very wrong. I’m the one that signs the concealed weapon permits in this county. I am very adamant about supporting concealed weapons. I’m very adamant about our guns. But don’t tie our arms behind our backs.”   

He continued that the Senate bill was reworded and passed the Senate even though Bouchard voted against it because he didn’t agree with the rewording. The bill died in the House. 

Carrizales again commented that he is very concerned about the impact a wrongly word document would have on law enforcement. He also addressed financial impacts for the county noting that people may not understand how much federal money comes in the county, including to the jail, airports, WYDOT, etc. 

“There may be a day when the county says to the feds we don’t want your money. The grants have too many hoops to jump through. But right now we need to find a balance. For our constituents and for the good of this county. Right now we need to have some level heads to work the best we can within the system,” remarked Blackburn. 

Kirk vocalized that she believes that those groups writing up resolutions and sending letters and emails about the county becoming a sanctuary county have good intentions. 

At the same time, she said there were “clearly unintended consequences.” 

She continued, “That’s my actual job, to think through the legal consequences of doing things like this. I think there are other ways to voice our support for the Second Amendment.” 

Kirk explained that looking at the other counties’ resolutions or the ones that have been drafted and submitted by other people there is language in them that could be a problem in the future depending on what the federal and state governments do that puts this county at odds with other agencies. 

“These examples came out of the WY County and Prosecuting Attorneys' Association more specifically in regards to SF81 and HB124 (the Second Amendment Preservation Act) that failed in the state legislature earlier, but are also good to think about when we are carefully crafting more local legislation that could have similar implications for our law enforcement officers.  Especially when we are considering language like ‘law abiding citizen’ in our own documents, or taking into consideration potential federal legislation (i.e., the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act - HR 7120).  These examples aren't mean to be sarcastic overstatements, but meant to encourage and give us pause to be careful when asking our local governments to pass formal resolutions or other local legislation regarding the very important second amendment sanctuary issues.  Big Horn County, the sheriff's office, and the county attorneys' office want to be very clear that we strongly support the right to keep and bear arms in accordance with the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1 Section 24 of the Wyoming Constitution.  We take our oaths to defend those laws very seriously.”

“Some of the proposed legislative items we have seen come forward over the last several months place our law enforcement officers under extreme regulation and raise the potential for unintended consequences that deserve to be carefully thought through.”

Kirk proceeded to provide examples proving her point, adding, “They are just meant to open up a dialogue and encourage a lengthy discussion in regards to what Wyoming or its counties and municipalities should do before declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries; and crafting any potential state or local legislation in a way that not only preserves our inalienable rights provided to us under the Constitution, but addresses many of the unintended consequences these types of bills, resolutions, or codes may have on our law enforcement officers and the greater public.  We are better served as communities when our law enforcement agencies can work together and cooperate to investigate crimes and keep guns out of the hands of criminals.  We would invite the public to be part of these very important conversations and provide input on how you would like Big Horn County to proceed with this topic.”   

After more discussion Carrizales, Commissioner Bruce Jolley and Commission Chair Dave Neves decided to hold the listening session on May 3.