In much of the U.S. West, even moderate states balk at gun control

balkingHELENA, Mont. — Stephen Watt is no stranger to gun violence. In 1982, as a 26-year-old Wyoming state trooper, he stopped a fleeing bank robber who pumped five bullets into Watt before leaving him for dead on an empty stretch of highway.

Watt lost his left eye and a good chunk of his liver. He has a bullet lodged in his spine, which still causes pain, and uses crutches and a wheelchair to get around.

Despite all that, Watt is a fierce opponent of gun control, convinced it doesn’t work. “Never has,” he said. “Never will.”

Watt, a Republican state representative in Wyoming, is one of a number of legislators across the country who’ve countered the push for tougher federal gun laws by advocating more lenient state standards and, in some cases, open defiance of Washington.

“Someone has to hold the federal government accountable,” said Montana Rep. Krayton Kerns, a Republican, who introduced a law prohibiting the use of any state money or manpower to enforce new federal gun controls. “If we don’t, who does?”

The U.S. Senate‘s rejection last week of tougher gun laws showed how custom and local sensibilities continue to drive…

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