House committee passes resolution declaring Utah has enough gun laws

A .9mm handgun produced by Honor Defense, a gunmaker in Gainesville, Ga., April 25, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by Lisa Marie Pane, St. George News

ST. GEORGE Utah should enforce the guns laws it already has rather than enact new ones – that is the message of a declaration a committee of state lawmakers passed Tuesday.

The Joint Resolution On Existing Weapons Restrictions, designated as 2019’s HJR 7, lists over 20 existing state laws that the measure’s sponsor, Rep. Cory Maloy, R-Lehi, said already strike a good balance between protecting others while also protecting the rights of gun owners,

“Everything from restricting firearms and weapons in certain situations to helping guide us in what we can do to help those who need mental health help, to children and parents in the home, how we can make homes safer” is already on the books, Maloy told the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee.

Maloy said the resolution he authored came about after he asked himself “What can we do?” in the wake of highly reported incidents of gun violence. The conclusion he came to “was not a good one,” he said, adding, “I couldn’t find a solution that didn’t infringe on our constitutional rights.”

A handful of of gun control measures have been introduced in this legislative session. Among the more notable is the so-called “red flag” gun law proposed by Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, that would allow law enforcement to temporarily confiscate someone’s firearms if they were deemed a threat to others or themselves.

Read more: Proposed ‘red flag’ law in Utah seeks to prevent gun violence, including suicide

Rep. Cory Maloy, R-Lehi, location and date of photo unspecified | Photo courtesy of the Utah Legislature, St. George News

The guns could be confiscated as a part of a protective order issued by a judge, That judge would make the determination to have someone’s firearms removed based on the petition of a family member of the gun owner or law enforcement familiar with the situation.

Individuals who lie about the need for the protective order would face third-degree felony charge under Handy’s bill.

According to language in Maloy’s resolution, existing law already “establishes that firearms may be voluntarily committed to a law enforcement agency for safekeeping by an owner’s cohabitant if they believe that other cohabitant is an immediate threat to himself or herself, or another person.”

Another bill, proposed by Rep. Elizabeth Weight, D-Salt lake City, would make it a class B misdemeanor for storing a gun in a place that is easily accessible to a minor or someone else the law currently restricts from possessing a gun.

“We cannot allow law abiding citizens to be turned into criminals,” Maloy said.

Following Maloy’s comments, various individuals speaking both on their own behalf as well as group representatives addressed the committee. While some supported the measure, the majority spoke against it.

A prevailing worry is that the measure would discourage lawmakers from pursuing any new gun control-related legislation that opponents argue is needed to help prevent violence and suicide committed with firearms.

A woman speaking for the League of Woman Voters, who opposed resolution, said it “creates a mindset that would hobble legislators in the future.”

Maloy’s bill is a nonbinding resolution, meaning it only sends a message that Utah lawmakers feel the state’s existing laws are adequate enough to deal with gun violence and suicide-related issues.

However, it is not a blanket ban on the consideration of future legislation, Maloy said.

Wendy Parmley, who opposed the measure, spoke to the committee as a private citizen and recounted how her mother used a rifle to kill herself in 1975 when she was 12 years old. Parmley also said legislation being proposed now, specifically a bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, might have saved her live.

She had planned her death. She told my dad how she was going to do it,” she said. “Had it been today and had we had the opportunity to pass the legislation that the good Rep. Steve Eliason is sponsoring … she may be alive, and we may not have been motherless.”

According to Eliason’s bill, it would reinstate provisions in Utah laws that would create “a voluntary firearm safety program and a suicide prevention education course.”

According to a recent legislative study, 85 percent of suicides on Utah involve firearms.

Read more: Report shows correlation between Utah firearm deaths and suicides, offers strategies and safety measures

Michael Slayton, who also addressed the committee as a private citizen, said he supported Maloy’s resolution. Born and raised in California, he said gun laws there did little to stop gun violence, like when a school he attended was shot up by someone “just to make a point.” He also spoke against the idea of locking a gun away in storage when it might be needed at a moment’s notice, such as when reacting to a home invasion.

When I moved to here, I learned that I could legally own a firearm,” he said, “that I don’t have to have a reason to own one other than to protect myself and my family.”

Maloy’s resolution passed the committee in a 6-2 vote and now heads to the House floor for consideration.

Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, voted against the resolution and said that, regardless of the subject matter, he felt it was bad policy to pass legislation restricting what the Legislature can do.

“I feel it’s bad policy for the Legislature to say we have enough laws in a certain arena and don’t need anymore,” he said “It puts us in a bad position saying we have enough – then why are we here creating new laws if what we have is enough?”

Read more: See all St. George News reports and opinions on Utah Legislature 2019 issues

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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