Mixed reaction in Utah to bipartisan gun proposal

Jun 13, 2022, 7:56 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — A new bipartisan plan in Washington that includes gun control measures received mixed reaction in Utah Monday, in the wake of two horrific mass shootings in Texas and New York.

A gun control advocate and a Republican state legislator told KSL that they are glad to see senators on both sides of the aisle work together on gun reform. But both voiced reservations about its impact on mass shootings and gun violence in Utah.

“Any movement is good movement,” said Nancy Halden, communications director at the nonpartisan, non-profit Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah.

But Halden pointed out that the bill came about because of recent mass shootings but that it would not address those types of tragedies effectively.

“Does it go far enough? No. Will it stop mass shootings? Sadly no.”

Halden argues that “if we want to address the issue of mass shootings, we got to address the issue of assault weapons.”

“I don’t see the Uvalde shooting or the Buffalo shooting as a groundswell of support for the Utah legislature to completely change our gun laws in Utah,” said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-District 23.

Senate bargainers announce outline of gun violence agreement

Weiler said he was surprised the proposed legislation does not include a ban on assault rifles.

What it does include is investments to increase access to mental health and suicide prevention programs. Halden said it closes the “boyfriend loophole” in domestic violence incidents involving guns and it provides funding for school safety resources.

The agreement between 20 Republican and Democratic senators also includes an “enhanced review process” for people under 21 who want to buy guns. That process would include reviewing juvenile and mental health records, including checks with state databases and local law enforcement.

And the proposal provides resources for states and tribes to pass so-called red flag gun laws. Halden and Weiler both acknowledged previous attempts in Utah to pass laws that would take away guns from those who would harm themselves or others.

“They’re saying maybe if we give the states some money, they’ll do what we want them to do. I don’t think that’s going to work in Utah,” Weiler said, adding that he would support such laws that meet due process requirements.

“As long as there’s a notice and a hearing, I think families should have the ability to say, ‘We have this relative who is mentally unstable right now and they shouldn’t have their guns.’”

Sen. Mitt Romney is among 10 Republicans who reached the deal on the proposal over the weekend.

Sen. Mike Lee did not work on the proposal but tweeted that he would always stand by the second amendment and looked forward to reviewing the legislation after it was drawn up.

In a joint statement, the 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats who worked on the plan called it a “commonsense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe, and reduce the threat of violence across our country.”

“Families are scared, and it is our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities,” the statement continued.

“Most importantly, our plan saves lives while also protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans.”

Still, Halden was disappointed to see the ban on assault weapons and expanded background checks missing from the plan.

“We think until lawmakers have the will to do that, these mass shootings are going to continue,” she said.

Weiler said he always likes to see lawmakers on either side of the aisle working together.

“While I welcome those efforts — I think we should be having those discussions — I’m not sure it’s going to be a game-changer.”

He said, “Ultimately, I think this is a decision that’s going to be decided by the states on a state-by-state level.”

But he wasn’t sure how big of a priority gun control would be in the state legislature by the time they are back in session at the beginning of 2023.

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Mixed reaction in Utah to bipartisan gun proposal