SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker is reintroducing a bill that would define when it is legal to openly carry a firearm.
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, is reintroducing a bill, H.B. 268, that would change the law so that openly carrying a firearm in public would not be grounds for disorderly conduct or other criminal charges. The bill aims to clarify for police that carrying a firearm in public is allowed as long as the person is not doing anything threatening.
The House passed Ray's bill during the 2012 Legislature, but it failed to pass in the Senate because of the language of the bill. Since then, Ray has been working with law enforcement officials and the Utah League of Cities and Towns to amend the language to be more suitable.
The bill is intended to protect the rights of gun owners, Ray said.
"Some agencies were using disorderly conduct as gun control," he said. "I don't want that to happen, and that's the reason for the bill. It's to protect the rights of gun owners."
Ray's bill emerged from an incident outside University Mall in January 2011 where a 51-year-old man was handcuffed and detained for a few minutes after walking on the sidewalk with a semi-automatic rifle over his shoulder and carrying a handgun. The man was cited for disorderly conduct and released.
Although the bill would alter the definition of disorderly conduct, if passed, Ray said he hopes people would be responsible when openly carrying a firearm. Last week, a man was photographed at a Utah JCPenney store with a semi-automatic rifle slung over his shoulder. The incident, although legal, concerned many shoppers. Ray said that type of openly carrying is not what he has in mind.
"There's a responsibility that comes with carrying a gun," he said. "And when you have the guy at JCPenney who strapped an AR-15 and decides to go shopping in the mall, that's crossing the line. And up until this point, law enforcement did not know what to do with that individual. Do you cite them? Is it within his rights?
Some agencies were using disorderly conduct as gun control. I don't want that to happen, and that's the reason for the bill. It's to protect the right of gun owners.
–Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield
"Again, the responsibility comes in, especially the mass shooting that comes in with the public, you shouldn't strap an AR-15 and go shopping," Ray added.
Ray said a provision in his bill would be included so that individuals who elicit fear in the public could still be cited for disorderly conduct.
"If you do something like that and cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or the safety of others, you can be cited for disorderly conduct," he said. "Had he caused a major incident at the mall just by carrying that in — multiple calls to 911, a mass exit of a store and commotions like that — is clarified now that law enforcement can cite them for disorderly conduct."