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3 gun bills, 1 banning open carry near schools, don't progress to Utah House floor

By Emily Ashcraft, KSL | Posted - Mar. 7, 2019 at 9:21 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Three gun bills — including "Lauren's Law," a restriction on carrying guns near schools, and restrictions on domestic abusers — did not move forward after the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee meeting on Wednesday.

HB190, which would place liability on a gun owner when a firearm they have loaned out is used to commit a felony, is nicknamed "Lauren's Law" for University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey, who was murdered by a bitter ex-boyfriend who borrowed a gun and tracked her down on campus. It will be transferred to the House Judiciary Committee at the request of the sponsor, Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy. He said a substitute he is suggesting deals with civil liability and would be better addressed in that committee.

HB217, which would create a 500 foot barrier around schools where open carrying is prohibited, was voted down with a vote of 2-6. The bill allowed for a gun owner to carry a firearm from their home to car and have it in their home or vehicle and would not affect concealed carry laws.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, said current law allows guns to be taken, visibly, up to the front door of the school.

"Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited," Briscoe said.

Clark Aposhian, chair of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said in 2011 the Legislature determined the gun zone around schools wasn't needed and since that time there hasn't been a pattern of problems. He also expressed concerns about charges for those who did not know the limits of the zone or had guns in vehicles that are not enclosed.

Anna Penner, a student from West High School representing March for Our Lives Utah, spoke in support of the bill saying it protects students and the rights of a gun owner while allowing law enforcement to act when someone is carrying a gun near a school.

"I beg you to consider the stress that these lockdowns place on the students of our state. Lockdowns make it incredibly difficult to focus on our education when our lives could be in danger," Penner said.

Briscoe said there has been an increase in lockdowns, noting that a student from the Jordan School District who was unable to attend the hearing had told him his high school had been locked down two days in a row because of people carrying guns near the school.

Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, expressed concerns that this could be problematic for rural areas, saying they would have people violating the law daily who are going hunting.

"I think it might work in Salt Lake, I’m not sure it works in rural Utah," Perry said.

Another bill was held in committee with a unanimous vote and will be studied over the interim. HB332 would require a court to issue a protective order against someone convicted of domestic violence and would prohibit them from owning a firearm. The Bureau of Criminal Identification would also be required to let local law enforcement know when someone under the restriction attempts to buy a firearm.

Jeremy Roberts, who helped present the bill, said it would not increase the number of people prohibited, but would be more proactive in state law.

The sponsor, Rep. Susan Duckworth, D-Magna, presented a substitute to the bill which took out a section making a first instance of domestic violence involving a firearm or weapon a class A misdemeanor rather than a class B misdemeanor. This would take such cases out of justice courts and into district courts. Duckworth explained she suggested the change because they did not have time to get funding.

A few members of the public, including Darcy Goddard, deputy district attorney and policy advisor in the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, said her office, including Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, supported the original bill but not the substitution. She said that because a conviction in justice court would be appealed at the district court level, victims would go through the trial process twice.

"The most important part of this bill was protecting the victims from being re-traumatized by multiple trials on the same charge," Goddard said.

A vote to adopt the substitute failed with a 3-4 vote. The committee voted unanimously to hold the bill and work to address concerns between Legislative sessions.

Emily Ashcraft

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