Gun measure inspired by slain Utah student stalls at Capitol

Feb 21, 2019, 6:07 AM
suicide risk gun shop...
In this Oct. 2, 2018, photo, semi-automatic rifles fill a wall at a gun shop in Lynnwood, Wash. St. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — State lawmakers pressed pause Wednesday on two gun measures, including a proposal inspired by the shooting death of University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey.

The plan to hold gun owners civilly liable if they lend out a firearm used in a crime stalled out after hitting opposition from gun-rights advocates.

Two other voluntary gun-safety proposals supported by the gun groups like the National Rifle Association were approved by a panel of lawmakers, sending them to the full House of Representatives.

Democratic sponsor Rep. Andrew Stoddard said he wants to keep working on the measure dubbed “Lauren’s Law” and bring it back.

Her ex-boyfriend used a borrowed gun to kill her on campus in October after she broke up with him. Melvin Rowland, who later killed himself, got the gun by telling a friend he wanted to teach his girlfriend how to shoot, police have said.

Brian Judy, state director of the NRA, called Stoddard’s measure the start of a “slippery slope.”

“This is a classic anti-gun tactic of shift responsibility from the criminal to the law-abiding firearm owner,” he said.

Stoddard disagreed, saying it would apply to about 10 cases a year and simply allow a lawsuit, not potential criminal penalties.

Lawmakers voted to hold his measure, signaling it could come back.

They took more decisive action by tabling another bill that would have penalized gun owners if there’s an injury after a minor or restricted person gets a weapon that’s not safely stored.

Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Weight compared the idea to requiring children to be strapped in car seats, which was once controversial but now an accepted safety measure.

Judy, on the other hand, said there are a relatively low number of fatal firearm accidents in Utah, and “the idea of losing your children is much more of a deterrent.”

Gun-rights advocates, though, spoke in favor of two other voluntary gun-safety measures that did pass. One would educate people about the risk of suicide by gun amid an alarming spike in youth suicides in Utah, as well as help people get safe-storage devices.

“I believe responsible gun owners will take steps to safely store firearms,” Republican Rep. Steve Eliason said.

Another measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Cory Maloy would clarify that people can voluntarily surrender their weapons to police if they’re afraid they or someone they live with is at risk.

The bill got unanimous support from lawmakers of both parties, as well as gun-rights advocates.

“We favor a carrot approach rather than the stick approach,” said Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council.

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Gun measure inspired by slain Utah student stalls at Capitol