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Utah lawmaker looks to hold owners liable for loaning guns

December 21, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah lawmaker is proposing a measure that would hold gun owners liable if they lend out firearms used in crimes, even if they weren’t aware of the borrowers’ intentions.

Democratic state Rep.-elect Andrew Stoddard is calling the measure “Lauren’s Law” after the 21-year-old University of Utah student shot to death in October by a man she briefly dated.

Melvin Rowland, 37, borrowed a gun from a friend before killing Lauren McCluskey, a track athlete and a senior communications major, authorities said. Rowland killed himself as police closed in.

The friend did not know Rowland’s plans, and it is unlikely he will be charged, campus police said. Rowland told the lender he wanted the gun to take his girlfriend target shooting.

Under state law, it’s illegal for gun owners to knowingly loan weapons to people who cannot legally possess guns or intend to commit crimes.

Stoddard’s measure is aimed at codifying liability to make it easier for people to pursue civil damages.

“It will make people think twice before they loan their gun to someone else, or don’t leave it in a safe, or leave it in their car,” Stoddard told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Down the road, we can look at addressing the criminal issue, but I think right now there’s really a consensus that people who own guns, people who don’t, they’re all for responsible gun ownership.”

Because Rowland killed himself and cannot be prosecuted, the measure searches someone else to be held accountable, said Clark Aposhian, of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, which opposes Stoddard’s measure.

“He’s creating the lowest level yet of culpability to have someone other than the actual criminal stand in,” Aposhian told Deseret News.

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