SALT LAKE CITY -- A man photographed carrying an assault rifle in a Riverdale store earlier this year could have been charged with disorderly conduct, if legislation that cleared the House on Thursday makes its way into law.
The House voted 54-12 to approve a bill defining the ability of police to charge a person openly carrying a weapon with disorderly conduct. The bill, HB 268, contains language on what is considered reasonable and allows local police to do what has been described by bill sponsor Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, as an attitude check. It also has language about a firearm being in a holster or covered when openly displayed.
Initiated early in the session, the bill has gone through a number of revisions thus far. It was amended on the floor twice before being approved. Ray suggested no one was completely happy with the compromise. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Rep. Derek Brown, R-Cottonwood Heights, worried the bill infringed on two competing rights: the Second Amendment right to carry a firearm versus the right of law enforcement to keep the peace. He pushed the amendment to include the phrase "reasonable" in allowing police to aproach an individual openly carrying a weapon.
The bill still caused a lot of discomfort for some lawmakers.
"I'm worried the policy decision frames the decision as guns versus cops. I stand firmly behind local law enforcement. ... I don't want to put our law enforcement in a position where they feel they are compromising public safety," Rep. Tim Cosgrove, D-Murray, said.
Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, pressed Ray on what he described as the assumption that a reasonable person has no reason to fear another person openly carrying a firearm in a mall. He said it is reasonable for the public to be concerned about people openly carrying a weapon and said to believe otherwise is folly.
Ray said the bill covers a gray area and allows an officer to approach a person carrying a weapon and do an attitude check. He referenced the Riverdale mall incident and a committee hearing last week on the Hill, where a person carried a weapon into the hearing, as instances in which a political statement could be construed as disorderly conduct.
"If you're not acting appropriately, now we can do something about it," Ray said.