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  • Writer's pictureCat Urbigkit

Concealed Carry & its History in Wyoming

I renewed my concealed carry permit this week. Luckily, I realized it was due to expire at the end of this month. Concealed carry permit holders do not receive notification their permits are set to expire, so it’s on the permittee to stay on top of it.

The renewal process requires several steps, so it’s best to carefully read the instructions from the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, which can be downloaded here.

DCI says to take three copies of the completed application (which must be notarized) to the sheriff’s office, along with a $45 cashier’s check or money order written out to DCI, and $5 for the sheriff’s department.

The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office then gives you a receipt and a piece of paper to take to WYDOT Driver Services to get a photo. You are required to get the photo within 5 days, so it takes a little planning if the Driver Services office is only open a day or two of the week. Driver Services will take the paper and will look at and return your driver’s license to you, but there is no other paperwork or fees there – a snap of the camera and you’re done.

Sometime in the next month or so, the Sheriff’s Office will call and ask me to come in to pick up my new permit. The permits are not mailed.

This process of going through the local sheriff’s office to apply for and obtain a concealed carry permit is a holdover from a process begun nearly 70 years ago when local sheriffs were given the discretion to determine who should be able to concealed carry.

For those of you curious about why I concealed carry, here’s a primer.

Wyoming History

For a fascinating history of Wyoming’s public and concealed carry practices, starting back in pre-territorial days and proceeding to about a decade ago, check out this link to an article in the Wyoming Law Review.

Although the Wyoming Law Review is more extensive, here are a few interesting points in history:

• In pre-territorial days, the “Territorial Librarian” distributed firearms to unarmed and unprotected citizens living on ranches.

• In pre-territorial days, open carry of firearms was the norm, and concealed carry was an automatic misdemeanor in the Dakota Territory in the mid-1800s. As the Wyoming Law Review article stated, “At a time when guns were carried openly upon a person for business or for protection, carrying a concealed weapon came to be viewed with distrust.”

• In the late 1800s, Wyoming Territory had laws against both open carry or concealed carry within settled towns, and these restrictions stayed in place for 14 years. You could ride around on the range all day with your guns, but you had to turn them in when entering towns.

• Shortly before statehood, Wyoming enacted a law prohibiting concealed carry for everyone except travelers. This statute recognized a traveler as “a person traveling at least such a distance as takes him among strangers, with whose habits, conduct, and character he is not acquainted, where unknown dangers may exist from which there may be a necessity to protect himself by preparing for a defense against an attack.”

• The Wyoming Constitution, adopted in 1889, states: “The right of citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and of the state shall not be denied."

• In 1925, the legislature authorized the Game & Fish Commissioner and his deputies, as well as peace officers, to confiscate deadly weapons owned or carried by non-citizens of the United States. Any confiscated weapons could then be sold, with the proceeds going to the county school fund.

• Wyoming adopted its allowance for concealed carry permits in 1957. No longer would concealed carry be allowed only for travelers, but government officials and law enforcement officers would be included, and the local sheriff was granted the authority to issue permits to "other persons who may be required by their work, vocation or profession to carry a weapon,” provided the sheriff considered the applicant’s general reputation and criminal record.

• In 1994, the authority for issuing concealed carry permits was transferred to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. With passage of this statute, the issuance of these permits is no longer discretionary. Instead, the agency has a nondiscretionary duty to issue concealed carry permits to qualified applicants.

• “In the 150 years since the creation of the territorial government, the State’s stance on gun carrying has undergone many adjustments. It shows that peaceable open firearm carriage has almost always been allowed everywhere, and always allowed somewhere, in Wyoming. Concealed carry, on the other hand, has a mixed history. It came to be held in disdain, and highly regulated, in the early part of Wyoming’s history. But it became the accepted and default mode of public carry in recent years. Wyoming today has some of the most liberal gun laws in the country.”


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