Both Sides Impassioned In Open Carry Debate [AUDIO]
First Reading on a proposed ordinance to ban weapons from city meetings in Casper heard passionate testimony from both sides
"In this body I would ask that those who would openly carry a weapon make sure that you have the safety on, that you keep your weapons holstered or slung on your back or however you want to do it, and that the muzzle is pointed down."
Those were some of Mayor, Paul Bertoglio's opening remarks to those attending the first reading of a proposed change to Casper's City Ordinance on Weapons.
Mayor Bertoglio, acknowledged it's a passionate issue, and one he does not support. He also spoke with some discomfort about fielding some 70 to 100 emails in advance of the meeting.
"I have had a target painted on my back. I have had some of the most nasty emails, phone calls and all I'm trying to do is be the voice of the council. The council has not taken an official action. All they have done is move this forward to have a discussion."
City Manager, John Paterson, outlined the proposed ordinance change that he says is intended to create an environment that's safe and free from intimidation.
Senator Kit Jennings, was the principal proponent of the concealed carry law passed last legislative session. In his testimony he said he believes the Open-Carry law should stay as it is, and to do otherwise would be unconstitutional.
Jennings argues there's no data to support an assumption that the presence of weapons at meetings leads to problems. He argues that, in fact, a ban will only drive the weapons toward concealment.
"When they walk in that door, unless you go to the expense of metal detectors or pat downs you don't know whether a person is coming in here concealed. So what your doing right now with this ordinance is, your not saving yourself, what your doing is your driving that weapon to a concealed position, which is illegal in here, and you don't have any control over him whatsoever."
Council member, Kenyne Schlager shared that she too has had death threats and hate mail. She says she feels trouble brewing and wants to head it off.
"So for me personally having some of those scary moments arrive, I'd rather be safe than sorry. It feels a little bit like we're sitting ducks up here. I do understand that if someone really wants to do us harm they could carry a gun in, but I still want to be able to make a choice on a topic without feeling intimidated."
Jennings advice to council members is to get their own gun and learn how to use it, because they are the only person who'll always be there 100 percent of the time to offer themselves protection.