SALT LAKE CITY -- The gun battles of this legislative session may come down to the question of state versus federal control.
Utahns enjoy broader firearms protection than most states provide, thanks to a clause in the state constitution that goes beyond guaranteeing the right to bear arms and also secures that right for the "security, and defense of self, family and others."
That control is unlikely to be changed significantly this legislative session, say a number of lawmakers. But what if the federal government intervenes with new gun-control laws?
Therein would lie a major battle.
County sheriffs from throughout the state have already weighed in on the matter, issuing a strongly worded letter earlier this year stating they intend to enforce citizen rights granted by the state constitution and that no federal official will be allowed to descend on Beehive State citizens to take away that right.
They are not alone in expressing concern about that possibility.
Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, is running HB 114 this session. The bill states that firearms regulation is reserved by the state and provides for prosecution "of anyone attempting to enforce federal laws to the contrary."
Greene insists his bill, which is currently stuck in a House committee, is about the state reasserting its basic rights.
Greene said the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn., initiated an eruption of activity on gun control in Washington and created a situation in which he felt he needed to ensure the state was heard in the process.
He quoted James Madison and the Bill of Rights in saying the nation's security would lie in the state Legislature.
"It was clear until 1934 that the Second Amendment meant hands off. Now how do state legislatures resist federal encroachment?" Greene said.
Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, doesn't expect that state laws regarding firearms will change significantly, but he does believe the Second Amendment is under assault.
Ironically, Christensen, an avid hunter, has run into his own obstacles this session in trying to deal with a separate firearms issue -- opening up publicly owned target ranges to groups of target shooters.
Clark Aposhian, president of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said much of the hype about gun control is misdirected.
"Legislation shouldn't be reactionary. It should be based on a pattern of problems," he said.
Greene's bill is aimed at the target, Aposhian said.
"It's an appropriate reaction to what someone should do if their constitutional rights are threatened."
Greene's bill could face major obstacles in the Legislature. It comes with a note questioning its constitutionality, a situation that leaves many Senate leaders uncomfortable.
Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said the differences between the state constitution's guarantee of firearms freedom and the Second Amendment create some tension.
"Those are things the Legislature should engage in. Utah, being a stalwart in defending the rights, it's very legitimate for Utah to have those discussions."
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said lawmakers are eager to protect fundamental rights; however, pressed on what the state would do in a state-versus-federal-rights issue on firearms, he deferred to others.
Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, did weigh in on the issue, but tentatively.
"The concept of state's rights I generally agree with. I believe we can do things better at the local level, but at the same time, we have federal laws that we comply with, and we always have some of those federal laws and guidelines. We have to work out the two."
House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart, R-Provo, said support for the Second Amendment is strong and won't change, no matter what happens to any of the gun bills proposed this session.
Maryann Martindale, executive director for Alliance for a Better Utah, blasted the approach to gun safety and some of the gun initiatives being run in the Legislature this session.
"We have a love of guns. It is a romanticized, macho fixation on something that, sure, while in the right hands can provide some entertainment, but in the wrong hands, in the hands of someone who has been marginalized, is less than stable, or any of a number of other factors, they are an instrument of death," she said.
"The argument that more guns will make us a safer society has been debunked with statistic after statistic. Not one of the 62 mass shootings in the U.S. over the last 30 years has been stopped by a civilian carrying a gun.
"More guns don't increase safety -- they multiply the chaos."