Possible New Law On CCW Reciprocity in Wyoming

Presently, Wyoming recognizes the CCW permits of 23 other states. A year or so ago the Wyoming Attorney General, pursuant to authority granted to him by the Wyoming CCW Permit law, determined that only six other states had laws “similar to Wyoming’s” and thus only permits from those 6 states would be recognized. A hue and cry developed and the AG backed off. The AG’s office then said that all 23 state permits that had been recognized for years would continue to be recognized while a study was conducted to determine just which state’s had laws “similar” to Wyoming’s laws and could thus be recognized.

Yesterday the Wyoming Senate passed SF 26 and sent it to the House. SF 26 will take away the AG’s ability to determine which states have laws similar to Wyoming’s, and as far as I can tell from reading the bill and the amendment that was attached yesterday it appears that it will place Wyoming along side those states that recognize all other state permits that recognize Wyoming permits. If so, this will be a very good thing for Wyoming residents as it will likely increase the number of other states that will honor Wyoming permits. It will also be a good thing for visitors to Wyoming, increasingly important to the Wyoming economy.

The Federal law that will allow visitors to Yellowstone and Teton National Parks to carry firearms in accordance with Wyoming law goes into effect on Monday (major exception for “Federal facilities” such as the visitors center).

Another bill in the Wyoming legislature will allow carrying concealed without a permit, although a permit may be obtained for those who need one for carrying in other states. If passed Wyoming would join Vermont and Alaska in allowing citizens who may legally own firearms to carry concealed without a permit. Idaho is almost in that group because it allows concealed carry without a permit “outside of a town.” There is one major restriction, however. To take advantage of the law one must have been a Wyoming resident for 6 months. I’m not aware of any residency requirement in Vermont, Alaska or Idaho.

I wonder if the residency requirement is constitutional. This is, after all, a criminal law. It will remain a crime to carry a concealed firearm in Wyoming except as provided in this statute, if enacted. Is it constitutional to have one criminal law of general application for residents and a different criminal law for non-residents? Could Wyoming make a law providing for different speed limits for residents and non-residents? Can different criminal penalties apply to residents and non-residents? Carrying a concealed firearm is not a state concession such as hunting and fishing where the state spends considerable sums to sustain and promote the activity, an area where the Supreme Court says it is OK to treat residents and non-residents differently. But the carrying of firearms?

Apparently, the issuance of CCW permits to residents only is constitutional because many states do limit their permits to residents. And that can make it impossible for non-residents to carry in those states if their home state permit is not recognized. But that seems more like a state concession upon which the state incurs substantial costs to conduct on behalf of its residents. This is a law making an activity either a criminal act or an innocent act depending solely upon one’s status as a resident or non-resident.

Actually, limiting CCW permits to residents may only seem constitutional because it hasn’t been challenged. States cannot limit the granting of licenses to practice law to state residents, although they can certainly require taking of their own Bar Exam as a condition. It would seem that other licenses should be granted on the same basis, subject to a non-resident meeting the same conditions and pre-requisites as residents. In fact, they cannot limit the granting of hunting and fishing licenses to residents. They can charge a different fee for the license, but cannot deny the license solely on residency status. The higher fee passes muster because of the state concession exception, as I understand this area of the law (which is not much).

I don’t claim to know the answer. If anyone reading this does, please post it in the comments.

UPDATE: A bare tad of research brings up such phrases as “interests that are ‘fundamental,’ i.e., bear on “the vitality of the Nation as a single entity.” A fee or tax on pursuing a trade or business is covered. Toomer v. Witsell, 334 U.S. 385, 395 (1948). Differential fees on nonresidents for recreational hunting and fishing are not. Baldwin v. Fish and Game Commission of Montana, 436 U.S. 371 (1978). In general, differential income or property tax rules are covered, since they affect the right to “reside in” or “to pursue trade, agriculture, [or] professional pursuits.” That would explain the rule that states cannot restrict the right to practice law to residents. Does the right to be treated the same by the criminal laws rise to a “fundamental interest” that bears on “the vitality of the Nation as a single entity?” Rationally, you’d think it does. However, one can never understand constitutional issues with common sense. What is “rational” in constitutional law depends upon finding a decided Supreme Court case saying it is rational.

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