Utah governor: Feds have no right to regulate guns in state

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Gov. Gary Herbert signed a controversial message bill about guns Friday after raising questions just a day before about its cost. His Democratic opponent calls it a mistake that could cost the state millions.

It's called Senate Bill 11. It would exempt Utah from any federal regulations on firearms made and sold within the state.

Thursday, the governor hinted he might veto the bill, due to questions about its constitutionality and the costs of potentially lengthy court fight.

"I don't mind the message. I just don't want to end up having a million dollar cost attached to it, where we have slim chance of winning," Herbert said. "I think we have a slim chance of even getting to the Supreme Court, which is the intent of that particular piece of legislation."

Friday, Herbert signed the bill, saying: "There are times when the state needs to push back against continued encroachment from the federal government." He said he signed the law because it furthers the dialogue without "unduly burdening Utah taxpayers."

But the governor's Democratic opponent, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, says with the state facing a $700 million budget deficit, signing the bill was the wrong decision.

"I'm pro-gun. I'm pro-Second Amendment. I'm pro-state sovereignty. But I'm also a fiscal conservative, and I'm concerned that this bill could cost taxpayers up to $10 million," Corroon says.

The same debate is being heard on Capitol Hill over the cost and consequences of a series of so-called message bills.

"Those who criticize generally aren't those who represent a group of constituents. For me personally, my constituents are very pleased with the message bills we run," says Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City.

But Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, says, "Although I'm supportive of the state and its position, saying it once is sufficient without having to repeat ourselves and, if you will, poke them in the eye and kick them in the shin."

In his statement Wednesday, the governor said Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has assured him, should a legal challenge be filed against the state, Shurtleff's office could defend this legislation with minimal cost to the state.

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

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