SPRING CITY, Sanpete County — The leadership of this remote town is within their legal powers to recommend that every household own and maintain a gun, according to Utah's former attorney general Mark Shurtleff.
Shurtleff told KSL's Doug Wright that because the Spring City Council is stopping short of a law requiring gun ownership, their proposed resolution likely would not run afoul with state law.
"Only the state Legislature can make laws or rules pertaining to firearms," he said.
Shurtleff compared the Spring City resolution to an ordinance that passed in 2000 in Virgin, Utah. In Virgin, city leaders enacted legislation that included penalties for failing to own a gun.
Virgin's ordinance was one of the first controversies after Shurtleff was elected attorney general, he said, and his opposition on legal grounds prompted some in the community to accuse him of being "anti-gun" and a RINO — political slang for "Republican in Name Only."
There are dangers down there, this is not big city violence but things happen.
"They took a look at it and obviously decided that they needed to obey state law," he said of Virgin's leadership.
Last week, the City Council in Spring City agreed to pursue a resolution that would encourage each of the city's roughly 325 household to own a gun and participate in gun training. Councilman Neil Sorensen proposed the matter, which initially called for requiring ownership but was then walked back to a recommendation after discussion with his colleagues and a concern over big government intrusion.
Sorensen said he was motivated by the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, as well as a concern that the city of just under 1,000 be able to defend itself in the absence of a full-time police force. He also said that most households in Spring City already own a gun, and the resolution would be a largely symbolic gesture affirming the community's support for Second Amendment rights.
Shurtleff said he was sympathetic to Spring City's concerns for safety and based on what he's heard of the council's planned resolution, it would most likely not face legal challenges.
"There are dangers down there, this is not big city violence but things happen," he said. "I understand people's concerns. I'm a gun owner and people ought to have a right to protect their property, but you can't require it."