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Representative-elect introduces ‘Lauren’s Law,’ legislation to make gun owners ‘think twice’ before loaning their gun to someone else

Posted at 5:36 PM, Dec 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-20 23:16:53-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A brand new lawmaker has filed a bill in honor of a University of Utah student murdered on campus nearly two months ago.

Representative-Elect Andrew Stoddard says he was inspired to file Lauren's Law after seeing a tweet from her mother.

"I saw that Lauren McCluskey’s mom was frustrated with the way that she wasn’t able to get any retribution against the owner of the gun," says Stoddard.

Lauren McCluskey was shot to death by a convicted criminal on parole. Melvin Rowland was not legally allowed to have a gun, but he got it from a friend under the guise that he was going to teach Lauren how to shoot.

"It will promote responsible gun ownership. I want people to think twice before they get their gun and loan it to somebody," says Stoddard.

The way the laws are written now, you would need to prove that the gun owner intended to help commit the crime or knew that it was illegal for the person to have a gun, in order to prosecute.

The person who loaned the gun to Rowland said he had no idea he was on parole and police say it's unlikely he'll face charges. This bill would create civil liability, allowing for recourse even if the person can't be criminally charged.

Chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, Clark Aposhian, says he has problems with the bill.

"If the person had no knowledge that the intended recipient of a firearm was a criminal, no there’s no crime and there shouldn’t be one," says Aposhian.

Aposhian says he understand the emotional need to hold someone responsible, but doesn't think the gun owner is the criminal.

"If we’re going to do that then ethically we should be applying that same standard to any dangerous item. Let’s see how the legislature likes that kind of a bill," says Aposhian.

Aposhian says Lauren McCluskey's murder was an isolated incident and most gun owners in Utah already think twice before letting someone borrow their gun.

"That’s what I’m hoping is that they already think twice about it so it really shouldn’t be an issue and hopefully they’ll be supportive and that’s what I want," says Stoddard.

Stoddard says his bill was assigned a legislative attorney Thursday. He's hoping to get feedback from interested parties and start to craft language for Lauren's Law immediately so they can make revisions in time for the upcoming legislative session.