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February 27, 2009

Notable legislative response to Hayes in Wyoming

Though I have been troubled by the lack of a robust public dialogue about gun rights in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling in in the Hayes case, I am intrigued to see a legislative response in Wyoming.  This local story provides the details:

Wyoming residents accused or convicted of domestic violence may find it easier to regain their federal gun rights thanks to recent action by the state Legislature.

"For those that want their guns back, it's good," Suzan Pauling, public policy director of the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said of the changes to Wyoming law. "I think for domestic violence victims, it's not very good."

Congress in 1996 expanded the law that bans convicted felons from owning guns to apply to people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. Wyoming, where hunting and gun ownership are cherished ways of life, has been trying to find a way around the domestic violence provision for years. "Judges in the state seem to be hesitant to take away gun rights because it's such a huge thing in Wyoming," Pauling said. "Having your gun in Wyoming is kind of like being a Wyomingite."

Gov. Dave Freudenthal on Thursday signed House Bill 106.  It will allow Wyoming residents who have been convicted of domestic violence to apply to the court to expunge their record and regain their gun rights.

It requires them to wait at least five years following the conviction before they apply to court and limits them to one expungement. Freudenthal said he's comfortable that judges will be able to review people's conduct for five years after a conviction before considering their expungement requests. "I think that gives you a pretty good chance to look at it, and evaluate their conduct," he said Thursday.

As the story suggests, this legislation was obviously in the works before this week's Hayes ruling.  But I suspect the Hayes case may have help move the legislative process along in some way.

Other recent posts on the Hayes decision:

February 27, 2009 at 04:12 PM | Permalink


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I tend to doubt that Hayes really hurried anything along. What I find most interesting is not HB 106, but HB 297 (http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2009/Engross/HB0297.pdf), also mentioned in the article. It was clearly designed to get around the federal gun restrictions, but given Hayes, I suspect all it does is create, basically, a second battery crime. Moreover, it raises the possibility that a defendant could get charged with both battery and "unlawful touching."

Posted by: Mackenzie | Feb 27, 2009 4:55:38 PM

In fact (and my apologies for the double comment), Wyoming has been trying to allow DV offenders to regain gun rights for some time -- Wyoming ex rel. Crank v. U.S., 539 F.3d 1236 (10th Cir. 2008). This legislation is more of a response to the failure of the first attempt.

Posted by: Mackenzie | Feb 27, 2009 5:44:32 PM

Finally a State willing to approach gun rights with some common sense.

Posted by: Recon | Feb 27, 2009 7:04:41 PM

The 10th Cir. has held that WY's battery statute does not come within the federal definition of "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence." Accordingly, anyone convicted under that statute as a part of a "domestice violence" prosecution is already permitted to possess a firearm.

In the case of WY misdemeanor battery convictions, there is no right needed to be "restored" because such rights have not been taken away.

Posted by: DEJ | Mar 2, 2009 11:32:34 AM

But wouldn't the new Supreme Court case require a consideration of the facts of the underlying assault case to determine whether it is or could have been prosecuted as a DV case?

Posted by: Talitha | Mar 2, 2009 2:55:52 PM

"Finally a State willing to approach gun rights with some common sense." This is exactly I want to say also, we have the same thinking. :D

Posted by: lucas law center | May 1, 2009 1:17:53 PM

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