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Utah lawmaker considers revamping firearm safety bill after death of West Jordan teen

A Utah bill addressing gun safety in schools failed to pass in the last legislative session, but the bill's sponsor is thinking about bringing it back in light of the recent shooting death of a West Jordan teen.

A Utah bill addressing gun safety in schools failed to pass in the last legislative session, but the bill's sponsor is thinking about bringing it back in light of the recent shooting death of a West Jordan teen. (Sean Moody, KSL TV)



SALT LAKE CITY — A bill addressing gun safety in schools failed to pass in the last legislative session, but the bill's sponsor is thinking about bringing it back in light of the recent shooting death of a West Jordan teen.

Rep. Rex Shipp, R-Cedar City, said he was saddened by the news of this latest shooting, and educating teens about firearm safety — like what his bill intended to do — could save lives.

"I'm assuming these teenagers did not have proper training on how to handle safely a firearm," he said.

West Jordan police calling a deadly shooting of a 13-year-old boy by his 15-year-old friend a "tragic incident."

It's led to a renewed interest from Shipp to bring back HB258 in the upcoming legislative session.

The bill would have created a pilot program where some school districts could have offered firearm safety to students in ninth through 12th grade as an elective.

Students could only use replica, nonoperating firearms at school.

"It could have prevented something like what happened. Can't say for sure," said Shipp.

The bill passed a House committee and made it to the house floor. But there was pushback.

"The Senate committee voted it down," said Shipp.

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The Utah Educators Association said the courses could be taught through an outdoor recreation program, rather than in schools. But Shipp worried there wouldn't be enough funding and the curriculum wouldn't focus exclusively on the safe handling of firearms.

"Especially in light of what's happened here, I think maybe I need to rethink, make a few tweaks to the bill," he said.

Until then, he shared this message: "I'd just like to say to parents that if you have firearms in your home, you need to make sure that they are locked up in a gun safe to keep them safe," Shipp said.

Another criticism about this bill — the timing.

Some argued that introducing a new program during a pandemic would put more stress on educators.

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Tamara Vaifanua

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