Gun-rights group worried about ethics initiative

Gun-rights group worried about ethics initiative

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A proposed ethics reform ballot initiative could lead to the creation of a gun registry for lawmakers, a group that defends gun rights said.

The Utahns for Ethical Government proposal includes a conflict-of-interest section that would require lawmakers to disclose property that could be subject to government regulation.

Gun Owners of Utah officials said they think that could result in a gun registry.

"I interpret it that way because that is the obvious, clear reading of the law," said the group's public policy director, Charles Hardy.

The group has sent an e-mail urging its members and others to reject a petition to put the ethics reform initiative on the 2010 ballot.

But interpreting the initiative as requiring the creation of a gun registry is absurd, said David Irvine, the attorney for Utahns for Ethical Government.

Irvine said no reasonable judge could interpret the conflict-of-interest provision to affect guns.

Utahns for Ethical Government wants to impose campaign contribution limits and a gift ban along with establishing an independent ethics commission. Irvine said an ethics commission could only have an interest in property that carries a potential financial conflict, such as a lawmaker owning property that could be sold to the Utah Department of Transportation for a highway right of way.

Irvine also said lawmakers can simply change administrative rules created by commissions.

Lawmakers have different thoughts on the possible ramifications of the initiative.

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said he prefers that legislators tweak any unintended consequences if the initiative is passed by voters.

"They may see something that I don't see, but I've never even thought of this," King said of Gun Owners of Utah's concerns.

But Rep. Curtis Oda, R-Clearfield, said he thinks the group's concern is valid.

And Utah Shooting Sports Council Chairman Clark Aposhian said the initiative language leaves open the possibility of "a great degree of abuses of confidentiality."

"We have seen seemingly innocuous, seemingly benign sections of code used for nefarious things," said Aposhian, who added he hasn't asked his council's board for an opinion.


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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