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Gun bills in Mountain West state legislatures go in very different directions

Pistol in the holster. The shooter trains. Is preparing to shoot at the target.
Vadym Sarakhan
Adobe Stock
Pistol in the holster. The shooter trains. Is preparing to shoot at the target.

News brief

There are a variety of gun-related bills in state legislatures throughout the Mountain West right now with very different aims. Some states are looking into versions of an assault weapons ban while others may do away with concealed carry limits in some public spaces.

In Colorado and New Mexico – states where Democrats control the legislature – lawmakers are proposing banning the sale of assault weapons or banning them altogether. New Mexico is also considering restrictions on large-capacity magazines, while Colorado already has some in place.

“Assault weapons bans are not the most evidence-based policies,” said Lisa Geller, the director of state affairs for the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions. “There is evidence to support a large-capacity magazine ban, which would limit the number of rounds that a firearm can have.”

She says states that have banned these magazines have seen fewer mass shootings and fewer deaths during the mass shootings that have occurred.

In the Idaho and Wyoming statehouses, it's a very different conversation. An Idaho bill would prevent university leaders from regulating or prohibiting carrying concealed weapons on campus. And a Wyoming proposal would explicitly allow for concealed carry at public schools, the legislature and other public spaces.

Geller says she’s excited to see some states in the region – namely New Mexico and Utah – considering waiting periods for some gun sales. Though another bill proposing a waiting period for assault weapons in Utah failed in committee.

“If we put time and space between an individual who is suicidal and the weapon itself there are significant reductions in suicide, because firearms are the mostly lethal means of suicide,” she said.

CDC data from 2020 shows that Wyoming had the highest death rate due to suicide in the country, followed by Alaska, Montana, New Mexico and Idaho. The agency has called suicides “especially concerning” in rural areas.

A study published in 2022 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reviewed papers from around the world and found more people die of suicide in rural areas than urban, and men are especially vulnerable.

Geller also supports bills exploring safe and secure storage laws in homes and cars.

If you or anyone you know are in crisis, call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2023 KUNM. To see more, visit KUNM.