OPINION

Two gun control bills, including “Lauren’s Law,” stall in committee

Feb 21, 2019, 3:49 PM | Updated: 4:17 pm

Lauren McClusky (Photo: University of Utah)

(Photo: University of Utah)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers spent Wednesday morning refining the future of Utah’s firearm laws.

The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee evaluated four gun-related bills yesterday. Two bills survived the hearing and will be voted on by the House this session, while two others, including “Lauren’s Law,” were stalled in committee.

Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, drafted “Lauren’s Law” in response to the October murder of University of Utah student Lauren McClusky. H.B. 190 would create legal liability for people who lend their firearms to those who use them to commit a felony, as McClusky’s killer did.

“I’m optimistic that [H.B. 190] wasn’t killed,” Stoddard told reporters after the committee voted to hold the bill. “I do think there is something we can agree on, and I look forward to working on it and bringing it back.”

Committee members also tabled H.B. 87, which would have criminalized unsafe storage of firearms that resulted in injury or death.

“I wanted to think about something that would add another layer to asking and pleading for safe (gun) storage,” said sponsor Rep. Elizabeth Weight, D-West Valley City. Weight, a teacher, said she drafted the bill in response to a “school climate shift” after the Parkland shooting.

Lobbyists for the National Rifle Association and Utah Shooting Sports Council opposed both bills, saying they unfairly criminalize gun owners.

“This is a classic anti-gun tactic of shifting responsibly from the criminal to the law-abiding firearm owner,” said Brian Judy, an NRA lobbyist. “H.B. 190 takes Utah one step down the path away from individual accountability and personal responsibility. This bill will set up firearm owners to be targets of litigation in an already overly litigious society.”

Meanwhile, two Republican-sponsored gun bills received unanimous committee support and will be heard on the House floor.

H.B. 17, sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, would appropriate public funding for education on safe firearm handling and storage. H.B. 152, sponsored by Rep. Cory Maloy, R-Lehi, clarifies existing laws surrounding voluntary firearm surrender by family members of those considered at risk for suicide or gun violence. Maloy’s bill stands in opposition to H.B. 209,  sponsored by Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, which would implement a “red flag law” allowing judges to issue temporary suspensions of an at-risk person’s access to firearms.

Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, credited both endorsed bills for acting as “carrots” rather than “sticks” to encourage gun safety.

You can join KSL’s gun control conversation online by using #gunwatch or by texting GUNS to 57500.

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Two gun control bills, including “Lauren’s Law,” stall in committee