Utah lawmaker proposes ‘optional’ background check for private gun sales

Jan 4, 2022, 5:44 PM
(Utah State Capitol, November 8, 2021.  Photo: Paul Nelson)...
(Utah State Capitol, November 8, 2021. Photo: Paul Nelson)
(Utah State Capitol, November 8, 2021. Photo: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker wants to change state law so people can have the option to do a background check when they buy or sell a gun with another person.

“If you’re a seller of a firearm…you want to make sure that the person you’re selling it to…you can check to make sure they’re not a restricted person.” said Republican Representative Jeff Stenquist.

A background check

He’s sponsoring a newly filed bill stating that those buying or selling a gun “may request a criminal history background check from a Federal Firearms Licensee (also known as an FFL) before the transfer of a firearm” so long they “appear together with the firearm at the Federal Firearms Licensee’s place of business.” And fill out the required federal paperwork.

 Currently, it is legal to purchase a handgun, rifle, and/or shotgun through a private sale in Utah. As long as the buyer and seller are 18, and both are a current resident of Utah.  There is no firearm registration in the state. And there is no way to attach your name to the serial number of the firearm.

Owner would get gun back

The bill adds that if the background check comes back to say that the person buying the firearm is prohibited from owning one, it does “not prevent the transferor from removing the firearm from the premises.” In other words, the gun owner would get to take their gun back.

Stenquist says gun rights advocates came to him with this idea. And he thinks this solution works. It keeps guns from those who shouldn’t have them, while not infringing on law abiding gun owners.

Gun lobbyist Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said he had not spoken with Rep. Stenquist about this legislation, but stressed the importance of not giving just anyone access to the background check system.

“The potential for misuse of the system or breaches in the system is too great.” 

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Utah lawmaker proposes ‘optional’ background check for private gun sales