Red flag bills get a second life

Feb 13, 2020, 2:26 PM | Updated: 2:28 pm
red flag bills...
Two Utah lawmakers on opposite sides of the aisle are working on red flag gun bill files. (PHOTO: Credit: Paul Nelson)
(PHOTO: Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY — Red flag bills are getting a second chance in Utah.

And, interestingly, two state lawmakers on opposite sides of the aisle are behind the movement.

Two parties, one idea

Rep. Joel Briscoe (D-Salt Lake City) and Sen. Todd Weiler (R-Woods Cross) are both opening bill files that pertain to red flag gun legislation.

“Red flag,” meaning that a person’s guns could be taken from them under court order.

“If someone’s having a mental crisis, then maybe a family member could take some action,” said Weiler. “Maybe have a judge rule that a person can’t have their gun.”

This type of legislation has been sponsored for the past three years by Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton.  He abandoned the effort after it struggled to go anywhere in the House.

Red flag bills roadblock

Both Sen. Weiler and Rep. Briscoe know the topic will face pushback, including a fight from out-of-state parties.

“The [National Rifle Association] NRA comes out every session, they send people in from out of state and they lobby it really hard,” said Weiler. “They say it’s a violation of due process rights and a violation of the Second Amendment.”

Weiler says the group has acted hypocritically in the past.

“Every time there’s a shooting, the NRA comes out and says we’ll support a red flag bill,” he said. “But, every single state where they’ve been proposed they’ve lobbied against them.”

One reason for optimism, according to Weiler, is that members of Utah’s Senate Republican Caucus will be discussing this for the first time.

“In the Senate, we’ve never had this discussion, we’ve never had this debate,” said Weiler.

He adds that legislation is more likely to gain traction if lawmakers are able to find a “middle-of-the-road” solution to the problem.

Weiler isn’t shy to admit that personal experience is motivating him. He says a family member survived a suicide attempt involving a firearm.

“If my family could have done something I think we would have because we knew she was in crisis,” he explains. “But there were no tools available.”

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Red flag bills get a second life