Lawmakers in conservative Utah reject gun control measure
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers rejected a measure Monday that would have allowed police to temporarily confiscate guns from those deemed to be a threat, ending the only piece of gun control legislation that the conservative state took up after the Florida school shooting.
The proposal, sponsored by a Republican lawmaker, is similar to “red flag” efforts that a number of states are debating after the deaths of 17 people in Parkland, Florida, increased calls to curb mass shootings.
Members of the Republican-dominated House Judiciary Committee defeated the bill because they worried it went too far in violating a person’s constitutional rights and that it didn’t do enough to address mental health issues.
“This, to me, is more of a gun confiscation effort than it is a public safety measure,” Republican Rep. Brian Greene said.
The bill, which drew opposition from the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights advocates, would have allowed a family member or roommate to ask a court to temporarily remove someone’s guns and block them from purchasing new weapons if the person had made threats of violence or was determined to be dangerous.
Lawmakers also said it came too late in the session, getting its first hearing four days before they are scheduled to adjourn for the year. They asked Republican Rep. Steve Handy, who sponsored the measure, to work on it in the coming months to address their concerns.
Supporters said the legislation wasn’t perfect and wouldn’t prevent every shooting, but it could save lives.
“This offers a legal mechanism to protect students like mine,” said Stacie Lawrence, a Salt Lake City kindergarten teacher.
She told lawmakers that there were some warning signs before other mass shootings, including in Florida.
Handy told reporters that he would work with a new task force that’s studying school shootings and try to revive his idea for a special legislative session this summer. He worried that by then, some of the momentum would be lost.
“I think that human beings are that way, we get distracted with the things that we’re doing. Making a living, taking care of our kids and ‘Oh, it can’t happen in Utah,’” he said. “I’ve never said that this is the end-all, be-all, and I don’t think that anyone in any other state feels that way either, but it is a tool.”
The Utah School Safety Commission, which formed last week with backing from GOP House Speaker Greg Hughes, plans to study what more can be done to prevent school shootings before the next school year starts in the fall.
It includes representatives from education, public safety, mental health and gun rights groups, but no elected officials or gun-control advocates.
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