Aug 4, 2016

After injuries, city putting new restrictions on Cody Gunfighters

After a Friday mishap that injured three spectators, the City of Cody plans to implement some new restrictions before allowing the Cody Gunfighters to resume their nightly downtown performances with firearms.

“We cannot and will not compromise safety. No one in this room could in good conscience want to compromise the safety of our citizens and our visitors,” Cody Mayor Nancy Tia Brown said at a Tuesday night council meeting. “And we’ve had an unfortunate situation and we need to rebound from it, but we need to rebound from it stronger and better than we were before.”

"We want to be as safe as anybody else," Cody Gunfighters member Don Bash told the council.
The Cody Gunfighters put on a free old West show in front of the Irma Hotel during the summer tourist season.

Cody police are still investigating what happened during Friday’s show, but it appears something was shot from one of the performers’ guns. Three tourists — including a 3-year-old child — suffered minor injuries, police have said; someone later told police that a “bullet” appeared to have also punctured a raft at the neighboring Red Canyon River Trips.

After the incident, Cody Police Chief Chuck Baker suspended the Cody Gunfighters’ authorization to discharge firearms in town. The group — which normally performs six nights a week — hasn’t put on a show since Friday.

The city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to continue that suspension until the Cody Gunfighters meet new safety criteria crafted by chief Baker.

A draft of those rules presented at Tuesday’s meeting included a requirement for the Gunfighters to have an “independent gun safety manager” oversee all of their performances — including pre-show inspections of the actors’ guns. The Gunfighters would also need to provide the safety manager’s contact information to police.

Gunfighter Don Bash told the council that, since the incident, group members have discussed possible changes. One idea would be to require that all the guns in the show are used only for the show, being locked up between performances “so they don’t go home, so they don’t leave the premises and they’re loaded every day right there,” he said.

“We’re trying to figure out how to make it safer, too,” Bash said. “But we do have a good record.”

He said last week’s “unfortunate accident” came among more than 2,200 shows, performed for more than a million spectators over 19 years.

Mayor Brown told the Gunfighters that the city will act quickly.
“We want to be as safe as anybody else,” Bash said, noting, “We’re shooting at each other.”

He said the group will work with Baker “any way we can.”

A couple people spoke about the importance of the Cody Gunfighters to local tourism.

Jennifer Gould, the manager of the Cody and Powell WYogurt stores, said the performances’ impact on downtown Cody businesses is “amazing” and especially important in “one of the weakest (summers) that we’ve seen in a while.”

“The fact is that any little boost like that that we can see, helps us big-time. It gives us a little bit of hope,” Gould said, adding, “The last few days (it) hasn’t been that way, and it’s very sad. It’s very hard.”

Cody council members indicated they understood the urgency.

Until the Cody Gunfighters can work out the new procedures with the police chief, Cody councilman Donny Anderson asked if the group might perform with squirt guns or pop guns; Councilwoman Karen Ballinger suggested using cap guns.

“It’s not the intent to shut this show down. It’s just ... to get it as safe as it can possibly be,” Ballinger said.

“I think you have all of our support; we’re just in a bind right now,” said Anderson.

While no specific timeline was given for working out the new safety standards, mayor Brown told the gunfighters in attendance that, “We’ll try to get you guys back in business as soon as we can.”


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