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Utah Democratic lawmakers plan gun bills in response to Texas shooting

Posted at 4:50 PM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 19:14:18-04

SALT LAKE CITY  — Democratic lawmakers on Utah's Capitol Hill plan to propose gun control measures, even if they don't get very far in the Republican-dominated legislature.

House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said he is considering a series of bills in response to the school shooting in Texas that killed 19 children and two adults. But in an interview with FOX 13 News, Rep. King said he acknowledged the reality of those bills advancing.

"Let’s be honest, this is Utah. Unless we have different people in office, we’re not going to get very far with meaningful legislation dealing with guns, period," he said. "As long as you have a super-majority of Republicans, you’re not going to get meaningful gun bills passed. Full stop. That’s the reality we’re faced with here in Utah."

Still, the minority leader and other Democrats are drafting legislation. On Wednesday, Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, announced he will sponsor legislation to raise the legal age to purchase a gun in Utah from 18 to 21.

Rep. King said he is considering bills on data collection of prohibited persons who use a firearm in the commission of a crime and the source of that weapon; a bill to limit the capacity of magazines; and insurance requirements for firearm owners.

"If the individual owning the gun is going to be responsible to an insurance company in terms of increased rates, it’ll make people think twice about how they store their guns," Rep. King said. "It’ll make people think twice about who they loan their gun to."

Rep. King said he was also considering a bill he has attempted to pass for three years now with no traction on Utah's Capitol Hill — universal background checks. The House Minority Leader said it was his hope another lawmaker would take it on, particularly a Republican to get it advanced.

"I think it’s a great bill to run, if we can get them to run it," he said.

In the Utah State Legislature, bills expanding access to firearms have advanced in recent years. So has some legislation that does implement some restrictions for people who may be at risk of harming themselves or others.

Lawmakers this year passed a bill blocking background check requirements in city or county owned venues, a direct response to Salt Lake County's demands that gun shows at its venues require background checks. Last year, the legislature passed and Governor Spencer Cox signed into law "constitutional carry" or permitless carry of a concealed weapons (the exception being for schools and universities where a concealed weapons permit is still required). Utah still requires concealed weapons permits must have some training associated with it.

Lawmakers last year passed a law allowing people to voluntarily surrender a firearm and put themselves on a "restricted" list to purchase one if they are experiencing a mental health crisis where they might hurt themselves or others.

The Utah Shooting Sports Council, which lobbies the legislature on Second Amendment bills, told FOX 13 News it opposes the background check bill over concerns about its effectiveness and whether it may criminalize a legal transaction. But the Council's Clark Aposhian said the group did support some recent legislation that allows for voluntary relinquishment of a firearm for people at risk.

"It's an uphill battle," Rep. King conceded. "But that is not an excuse from my perspective, to sit back and throw up my hands and do nothing. The people of Utah deserve the best representation they can get on a critically important issue. That’s what this is."

The House Majority Caucus declined to comment on any pending gun legislation.

"The solutions that seem the simplest are not always the answers that will solve the most complex problems. The majority caucus remains committed to improving and finding additional ways to prevent devastating events from occurring in Utah," Aundrea Peterson, the deputy Chief of Staff for the Utah State Senate said in a statement on behalf of Senate Republicans.