EDITORIAL: Gun debate needs voices on both sides


Gun ownership has been an intimidating topic of late — one that, because of recent tragedies, has taken a seat at the forefront of national and statewide debate.

Whether we choose to admit it, gun violence has affected our community. While Wyoming has a different attitude toward guns and gun ownership than much of the nation, that Park County school districts have been voting on whether to arm their teachers tells us all we need to know about the far-reaching implications of multiple mass shootings and other instances of gun violence in recent years.

That said, the argument shouldn’t be whether guns, semi-automatic or otherwise, are good or bad; rather, teaching and preserving responsible gun ownership while keeping the public safe from those who abuse them should be paramount.

It’s a complicated debate, and one that won’t be answered without public participation, with proponents on both sides weighing in. Because of the national debate on gun control, citizens’ views on gun ownership are constantly evolving, and the rest of us are left trying to catch up. Having a different viewpoint than your neighbor doesn’t make you right or wrong, nor does it make your neighbor good or bad. But if we are to preserve responsible gun ownership while also working to preserve and protect public safety, it will need to happen through open discussion — and that means taking all views into account and working toward an acceptable solution.

Wyoming’s Congressional delegation, in the wake of the Feb. 17 shooting in Parkland, Florida, said any restrictions coming out of that tragedy should not involve restricting Second Amendment rights.

“Sen. [Mike] Enzi believes we need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill,” wrote Enzi representative Max D’Onofrio in a prepared statement. “However, the right of the American people to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right guaranteed in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, so he also believes that Congress should not limit the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms.”

As an example of support for this stance, the Wyoming Legislature voted to pass pro-gun legislation during the recent session in the form of House Bill 168. Under the so-called “stand your ground” bill, a law-abiding citizen who has not initiated a conflict would have no duty to retreat from any place where the person is lawfully present before using force to defend himself or herself.

As Wyomingites, there’s a good chance each and every one of us grew up in a household that embraced the Second Amendment to some extent, or at least were close with those who do. Voting to prohibit or allow teachers to carry won’t be the end-all of the gun ownership debate, but it is an important threshold moment. Please consider involving yourself in the discussion, regardless of your stance on the issue.