OPINION – Not surprisingly, the Utah Legislature is moving backwards.
While most of the nation is moving toward sensible, responsible legislation to curb gun violence, the Utah Legislature is heading in the opposite direction.
In particular, there are two pieces of legislation being proposed that make absolutely no sense whatsoever.
The first is a proposal that would eliminate the requirement for people carrying a concealed weapon to have a permit.
Sponsored by Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, the measure would allow anyone 21 or older to carry a concealed weapon as long as the person hasn’t been convicted of a crime that bars a person from legally owning a firearm.
Under present law, gun owners must possess a permit to carry a concealed weapon, which requires that they demonstrate that they know how to handle a gun by completing a training course or providing evidence of military service. Most other states have similar laws, issuing a concealed carry permit only to applicants who meet requirements such as background checks and training requirements. The Utah permit law is one of the loosest in the nation. However, if Mathis’ bill becomes law, Utah would join Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming, and Vermont as being the only states that don’t require a permit for concealed carry.
How ludicrous is this in the face of local law enforcement entities, including the Washington City Police Department and Washington County Sheriff’s Office, recently underscoring the importance of proper training for anybody who wishes to handle a gun.
“Relating to basic firearms safety, the No. 1 recommendation I would make, especially for new gun owners who may not be familiar with firearms, is to take a firearms safety class from a professional instructor,” Ed Kantor, public information officer for the Washington City Police Department, recently told STGnews.
In the same story, Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher emphasized that there’s more than simply putting your money on the counter when purchasing a gun.
“Gun ownership is a right,” Pulsipher said, “but with it we have a responsibility.”
Responding to a question about a man who recently strapped an unloaded rifle to his back and entered a Riverdale department store to “show others that weapons aren’t that bad,” Pulsipher replied that if you have a gun on you just to make a statement, “to me, that’s the wrong reason to have a gun. Common sense has to come into play here.”
Unfortunately, as history has shown, our Utah Legislature rarely makes judgments based on common sense.
There’s an equally misguided piece of business being pursued by Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, who introduced a bill that stipulates that Utah alone is able to regulate firearms in the state and that if any federal officer attempts to take guns from Utah residents, that officer can be arrested by local law enforcement.
This falls in line with a recent letter most of the sheriffs who are members of the Utah Sheriff’s Association have signed that, in part, states:
“We respect the Office of the President of the United States of America. But, make no mistake, as the duly-elected sheriffs of our respective counties, we will enforce the rights guaranteed to our citizens by the Constitution. No federal official will be permitted to descend upon our constituents and take from them what the Bill of Rights — in particular Amendment II — has given them. We, like you, swore a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and we are prepared to trade our lives for the preservation of its traditional interpretation.”
This is, of course, political grandstanding.
The legislature enters into debate on this bill knowing well that there is heavy legal precedent on such measures that would void the bill as being unconstitutional. Utah legislative attorneys, whose job it is to review bills for constitutionality, have already said that Greene’s bill would very likely be deemed unconstitutional.
As far as the letter from the Utah Sheriff’s Association?
It would be laughable if it wasn’t such a serious situation, especially that business about being willing to trade their lives for the preservation of the traditional interpretation of the Constitution.
This begs the question: What gives the Utah Sheriff’s Association special insight and expertise in descrambling the complexities of the Second Amendment when constitutional scholars have debated it for decades without consensus?
Wearing a badge and a gun does not impart any additional wisdom or scholarly knowledge. Besides, it is their job to enforce the laws in the interest of justice and fairness; it is not their job to interpret the laws or the Constitution.
Besides, the Constitution, according to many who have studied it much more than all of us combined here, is supposed to be a living document, which means that the reasons behind our Constitution, the Amendments, and our laws evolve over time to reflect our social, emotional, and intellectual advancement.
For example, if it wasn’t for the 13th Amendment, adopted in 1865, slavery would still be legal in this country. But, the 13th Amendment reflected a change of conscience and thought and, most importantly, humanity, that was not present in the Constitution.
On a more practical level, technically, the U.S. Air Force is not approved by the Constitution. There is a provision for an army and navy, but because the concept of flight was unimaginable, and because little thought was given to the advances in technology, that’s it. Still, we fund and support an air force.
Nonetheless, I fully expect both measures to pass in the Utah Legislature because they will play well with the voters here who have a long-standing grudge against the feds and, mostly, as a result of continued bad judgment.
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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