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Proposed legislation would reduce penalty for carrying a weapon on public transit

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Posted at 6:36 PM, Feb 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-25 20:36:46-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill making its way through the Utah legislature would lessen the charge of carrying a weapon on a public bus or train from a felony to a misdemeanor, but some Utah lawmakers are expressing reservations.

Under current law, carrying a weapon on a public bus or train could net a felony charge, though those with concealed carry permits are exempt. Rep. Norman Thurston, R-District 64, wants to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor.

“It’s not being enforced now, and it’s not necessary,” he said of felony charges for weapons on public transportation.

The bill would still allow police the discretion to charge a person with a felony if they are posing terroristic threats on public transit. However, Thurston said he worries that police might arrest innocent people.

Thurston said: “Do you really think--if you happen to be downtown... and you have a knife in your purse and you get stopped for some other reason--that police should have discretion to charge you with a felony just because you happen to have a knife in your purse?”

While there was no public opposition to the bill, some lawmakers said they have serious reservations.

Rep. Angela Romero, D-District 26, said, “I understand that concern, but, at the same time, I always think about public safety and so those are some of the issues he and I will talk out.”

The Utah Transit Authority is remaining neutral on the issue. A House committee approved the bill on an 8-2 vote, and the bill will now move to the full Utah House for consideration.