In the immediate aftermath of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting, which left 19 children and two teachers dead, Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming said she doubted that ideas being weighed in Congress to curb gun violence would be welcomed in her very pro-gun state.
“Expanding that would not be acceptable in the state of Wyoming,” she said then about a proposal to bolster background checks on gun purchases.
But two weeks later, Lummis signaled a fresh openness Tuesday to find legislative solutions to gun violence after she was “surprised” that her office was flooded with calls from constituents expressing a deep desire to do something to stop the spate of mass shootings across the country.
“We’ve received so many calls,” she told CNN.
“I’ve been a little surprised at the phone calls we’ve been getting and how receptive Wyoming callers seem to be to address guns in some manner,” said the freshman, who served four terms in the House and was a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “I am of the opinion that it’s more of a mental health issue than a gun issue. But, you know, I’m listening to what people from Wyoming are saying.”
When she ran for the Senate in 2020, she touted her “lifetime A plus rating” from the National Rifle Association.
Lummis said callers to her office generally have not declared themselves for or against specific policy proposals, but have expressed a “willingness to be open to suggestions.” She also said they may be motivated to act by Wyoming’s high suicide rate.
“The surprise to me has been the number of people that have weighed in, not with particular solutions that they support, but with a willingness to be open to suggestions,” she said. “They’re worried in large about, as I’ve said, the mental health issue, and Wyoming has the highest suicide rate in the nation.”
She added that “our gun culture is strongly pro-hunting and is deeply ingrained in our social fabric,” but that she is now considering voting for a package of legislative remedies that could include changes to red flag laws, mental health programs, school security and opening juvenile criminal records to gun background checks.
“That’s something that I’d be inclined to want to look at,” she said. “So many juvenile records seem to be expunged and the clock is set back to zero the day they turn 18. So I think that is something worth considering shortly.”
Lummis said she has not decided about whether she will vote for a bill that is still not finalized and is the subject of intensive bipartisan negotiations this week.
“It’s too soon to tell,” she said.