SALT LAKE CITY -- State lawmakers took aim at firearms-related legislation Wednesday.
Of the five gun bills heard in House committees, the most explosive appears to be HB 114, sponsored by Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove. The bill clarifies that the right to regulate firearms is reserved completely by the state and provides penalties to anyone attempting to enforce federal laws to the contrary.
The bill is still in committee, pending review.
Greene described the measure as a reaffirmation of state sovereignty and individual liberties. He said the shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December and the resulting discussion in Washington, D.C., about gun control led to the realization that state rights need to be heard.
Other measures considered include:
- HB 268, dealing with the ability of police to charge someone with disorderly conduct when that person is brandishing a weapon in a threatening way, passed out of committee with a favorable recommendation after lawmakers wrestled with specific language in defining what was dubbed a "reasonable person" clause. Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, is the bill's sponsor.
- A bill, HB 121, on allowing residents store firearms at local police stations for up to 60 days, received a unanimous recommendation from the House law enforcement committee. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, advances to the House for further review.
- A concealed carry amendment, HB 76, sponsored by Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, passed a House judiciary committee with a favorable recommendation of a 7-2 vote. The measure provides an exemption to a person older than 21 from criminal provisions related to the carrying of a concealed dangerous weapon.
- HB 211, sponsored by Rep. Val Peterson, R-Orem, and offering a concealed weapons permit for out-of-state service members in Utah, passed the House law enforcement committee.
- A sixth bill, HB 287, dealing with the return of weapons recovered by law enforcement, was not heard because of time constraints.
All of the measures face significant review before potentially becoming law.
Senate leaders said they have been briefed on several of the House bills but will wait to see how the legislation may be amended as it goes through the review process.
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said lawmakers would address the measures one at a time as they make it to the Senate for review.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, indicated the Senate would very seriously weigh constitutional notes attached to the legality of several measures, such as HB 114. He said he is worried about measures like HB 114, which may be unconstitutional.
Opponents have been strong in vocalizing their opinions regarding some of the bills.
Maryann Martindale, executive director for Alliance for a Better Utah, blasted lawmakers for forwarding HB 76 for further review.
"If Utah is going to be instrumental in reducing gun violence throughout America, then we must have reasoned, productive discussions about gun safety and gun regulation before we pass legislation," she said.
"Arming ourselves Wild West-style will not make Utah a safer place. Today's discussion represents a serious setback for reasoned dialogue."