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In case you missed it: our Red Flag Laws Forum

SALT LAKE CITY — State representatives, gun rights advocates, public health professionals and others came together Wednesday evening for a town hall-style panel discussion on an extreme risk protective order bill sponsored by Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton.


The bill is one example of a “red flag law,” or a law that allows judges to temporarily suspend a person’s access to firearms if they are deemed to be a threat for suicide or gun violence. 13 states have laws allowing for the issue of ERPOs, nine of which have passed them in the year following the Parkland shooting.

KSL’s Jay McFarland, who hosts The JayMac News Show, has followed and supported Handy’s bill throughout this legislative session. He hosted Wednesday’s panel discussion in hopes of answering Utahns’ questions about the bill and empowering them to advocate for their positions.

“We’ve done something here,” McFarland said at the conclusion of Wednesday’s event. “We’ve had a discussion about a very heated issue. We’ve done so respectfully; we’ve done so without demeaning each other or name-calling. There’s clearly large disagreement about the issue, but this is what makes America great. That we can come together and we can do this.”

He also encouraged attendees to participate in the legislative process as Handy’s bill moves through it.

“Work with your legislator. Let them know how you feel about this. If it’s something you support, let them know. If it’s something you don’t, let them know.”

Handy’s ERPO bill has received endorsements from several public health and advocacy organizations, including Action Utah and the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition. Both organizations were represented by panelists at Wednesday’s forum.

“We know they’re working. We know they save lives,” Monica Bellenger, the Health Policy Coordinator at Action Utah, said of ERPOs on Wednesday. “We know they help family members prevent tragedies, and we also know this is a tool they don’t currently have.”

Bellenger emphasized the value in equipping families with “crisis-mode” tools that work quickly to remove lethal weapons from suicidal loved ones.

But other panelists contended that the ex parte, or “one party,” nature of extreme risk protective orders violate respondents’ rights to due process and treat innocent gun owners like criminals.

“These people have not committed any crimes,” said Rep. Kevin Maloy, R-Lehi, who is sponsoring a resolution declaring Handy’s bill a redundant addition to existing legal code. “When threats are made, we have laws that can deal with those, but those red flags by themselves don’t indicate that a crime has been committed.”

 

“I oppose red flag laws as they come out across the county,” Maloy continued. “They are mostly about gun control and gun confiscation, which infringes on our 2nd amendment rights.

 

Violation of constitutional rights was a central concern of gun rights advocate Clark Aposhian, who serves as the chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council. Aposhian voiced concerns about Utahns’ right to arm themselves, as well as their right to due process and protection from undue search and seizure.

 

Bellenger responded with constitutional and case law justifications for ERPOs, along with information on the particulars of Handy’s bill.

“In terms of due process, there are a lot of safeguards for the respondent,” Bellenger said. “And at the end of the road for all of them is the restoration of their firearms.”

Although Handy’s bill is struggling to pass through the legislative process, he’s confident that it will make it, even if it’s not this year.

“I don’t know if this can pass the Utah legislature this year, but it absolutely will sometime,” Handy said. “Because the momentum of the people is that they’re at their wits end with this crisis.”

If you missed the forum, you can watch the Facebook video or listen to our podcast.

You can join the conversation online by using #gunwatch or by getting text updates about the bill if you text GUNS to 57500.