Bill granting control of Utah gun laws to the state passes committee

Feb 26, 2020, 7:11 PM
gun control Utah Salt Lake County...
House Bill 271 passed out of committee Wednesday. It would give control of Utah gun laws to the state. (Utah State Capitol. Adobe Stock)
(Utah State Capitol. Adobe Stock)

SALT LAKE CITY —  Should cities and counties have a say in Utah gun laws? Or should that responsibility be left completely to the state?

A bill that gives the state the ultimate say on Utah gun laws passed through a committee Wednesday. And it did so despite serious push back from Salt Lake County.

Recently, Salt Lake County changed the contracts it has with gun show producers.  County officials said their goal was to improve safety and prevent dangers like “accidental discharges.”

In previous years, they’ve required vendors to use chamber plugs and zip-ties to prevent accidental discharges from happening.  But more recently, Kim Barnett with the County Mayor’s Office says they required show producers to require background checks on private sales.

“The two gun show producers signed these amended contracts, they were implemented with ease and each has had successful gun shows since that time,” Barnett says.

Utah gun show producers call foul

However, show producers say they felt blindsided by this new contract.

“[The mayor’s office] told us that they would be issuing new contracts requiring background checks if we chose to continue conducting the shows, “said Crossroads of the West President Tracy Olcott.

“This statement came as something of a surprise to all of us in the Crossroads Group,” said Olcot. “We’ve had a really strong and mutually beneficial relationship for 45-plus years.”

Olcott says the county’s demands go against state law.

“The county would not let us hold the gun show at the facility unless we comply with the new mandate,” she said.

House Bill 271 would essentially give the state the ultimate say on gun regulations across Utah.  It reads, “A local authority or state agency may not prohibit an individual from owning, possessing, purchasing, selling, transferring, transporting or keeping any firearm, ammunition or firearm accessory at the individuals place of residence, property, business or in any vehicle lawfully in the individual’s possession or lawfully under the individual’s control.”

Supporters of the bill say they don’t want “piecemeal” rules applied across the state. They say those kinds of rules would make something legal in one area but illegal in another.

However, even some people who say they support the 2nd Amendment have concerns about the bill.   That includes Utah League of Cities and Towns Executive Director Cameron Diehl. Diel says House Bill 271 could limit a city’s ability to have firearms restrictions in places like homeless shelters.

“Historically, we’ve been allowed to have some sort of local regulation that, now, we might not be able to have,” Diehl says.

Related stories:

Salt Lake County requires background checks for purchases at gun shows (updated)

Gun bill advances in the Utah Legislature while red flag law hits a snag

Polling suggests support for some forms of gun control legislation

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Bill granting control of Utah gun laws to the state passes committee