Senate pushes controversial gun bill to Herbert

Mar 13 2013 - 11:51pm

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SALT LAKE CITY -- State lawmakers will force the governor's hand on a controversial gun bill dealing with concealed carry requirements in Utah.

The Senate approved HB 76 Wednesday morning with a 21-7 vote mostly along party lines, with only Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, and Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, voting against it among the GOP majority.

Gov. Gary Herbert has hinted he will veto the bill but has shied away from being specific on the topic. In a Tuesday news conference, he reiterated his belief that the state's current guns laws are sufficient.

The bill would allow a person openly carrying a firearm to cover the weapon with a coat without being in violation of state law if they do not have a concealed carry permit. It also specifies the gun must not be loaded. The provisions apply only to people ages 21 and older.

The bill was initiated by Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, after a friend was cited for putting a coat over a weapon while riding a horse.

"This gives honest people a chance to do what they can't honestly do now: Cover up a weapon. This will help honest people be more comfortable defending themselves and do it honestly," said Senate bill sponsor Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, thinks the bill will cost lives. He thinks gun owners need to undergo background checks and more training.

"I don't think it's too high a burden to make us safe. This is a bullet too far," he said.

The legislation has generated a lot of discussion at every level during the session, and the bill was amended heavily between a committee review and what eventually cleared the House and Senate.

The bill is one of two controversial firearms-related initiatives addressed by the Legislature this session.

The second bill, HB 114, passed the House but had not been placed on the Senate calendar for potential review in the waning hours of the session. The bill asserts the right of the state to protect Second Amendment rights of Utah residents in the face of potential federal intrusion.

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