The image of a man openly carrying an assault rifle in a Riverdale store last year will spark renewed discussion of disorderly conduct and how it applies to Second Amendment rights in the upcoming legislative session.
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton and Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, are both running separate bills to define the ability of law enforcement to charge a person openly carrying a weapon in public places with disorderly conduct. Both were co-sponsors of legislation that cleared the House in 2013, but died when compromise language raised opposition to the measure.
For Ray, this is the third consecutive session he has attempted to address the issue. He honestly sees little chance for the bill to be signed into law, without some significant compromise -- something he is doubtful will happen. He said his bill last year ran into opposition from the state organization representing police chiefs and the Utah League of Cities and Towns. The bill cleared committee with compromise language and then the House amended the language before approving it and sending it to the Senate, where it never came up for vote.
"There is no middle ground. The chiefs of police want us to throw out the Fourth Amendment, basically. They want to force someone to talk to them, if there is not probable cause. You can't do that," Ray said.
His 2014 bill is still being drafted but his measure in 2013 covered a gray area, which would have allowed an officer to approach a person carrying a weapon and do what was defined as an "attitude check."
Bramble's bill is still in the draft stage too, but has the support of the chiefs and the ULCT. He said his bill will attempt to draw the line where openly carrying a weapon can be seen as a threat.
Besides the incident in Riverdale last year where a man openly displayed an AR-15 while shopping at JC Penny, there was another incident in 2012 where a man carried an assault rifle in an Orem mall.
"When do they cross the line? This is very similar to the First Amendment. When do you have the right to say fire? Not when you're in a movie theater," Bramble said.
Bramble said gun activists objected to language the bill in 2012 and then last year it was the law enforcement community that pulled the plug on the bill.
"I'm hoping to see if we can bring the parties together," Bramble said.
Ray contends no one will find the middle ground if there is not some compromise on both sides of the issue. He said he is uncomfortable with some of the language of the bill being drafted, but said he is willing to give a little bit on the issue. He hopes the other sides will as well. He said he has not seen or heard any specifics about how Bramble's bill addresses the issue.
Ray has said most people support gun rights, but they also support doing so reasonably.