Guns, Gays and the Public School System
They picked a big hearing room on the third floor of the Capitol for a show-and-tell explanation of recalibration – the formula by which we pay for our public schools. This is about spending over a billion dollars of taxpayer money, so you might expect interest to be high.
And what a crowd showed up: Sen. Kit Jennings (R-Casper) and Sen. Tony Ross (R-Cheyenne) and one journalist. (In fairness, the crowd grew by another seven or eight when the House adjourned.)
But bring up a bill to ban recognition of gay marriage, or a bill to allow any “natural person” to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, and the crowd spills over into the hallway, people jammed together fanning their overheated selves like the audience at the Scopes monkey trial. (Naturally, these meetings take place in cramped little committee rooms.)
These issues matter deeply to some people. But for a state that prides itself on letting one’s neighbors be, telling folks which couples’ congress is legally recognized hardly seems libertarian. During the Senate Judiciary Committee’s meeting this morning on the “Defense of Marriage” constitutional amendment against recognizing gay marriages, Sen. Bruce Burns asked: “If they get married, what do we care?”
Regarding allowing concealed weapons without permits, we might have more reason to care. No need to repeat all the 2nd amendment arguments against any form of weapons regulation, we know, we know. But the idea that our society will be safer when more and more private citizens are armed on their trips to the grocery store, especially as we extend the privilege to individuals whose instability may be well-known to law enforcement but doesn’t register on a Brady background check, is, well, hard to fathom. (Law enforcement officials made this point to the Senate Revenue Committee – which then passed out the bill, with only Chairman Sen. John Hines (R-Gillette) voting against it.)
Legislators sometimes roll their eyes at issues like these, but they vote them out anyway, figuring it’s not worth engaging advocates of such persistence and adamance.
Meanwhile, the hearing room where they could learn about something that could really shape the future – our public schools – is largely empty. The folks from the Legislative Services Office and the Department of Education and the Joint Education Committee explained how they would distribute $1.3 billion to the state’s schools, throwing in an extra $100 million above what their education consultant suggested. $100 million! A bonus for a system that isn’t working?
The headlines will read: “Panel Okays Gun Bills”; “Gay Marriage Ban Approved”.