Concealed Weapons Bill Clears Legislative Hurdle

Concealed Weapons Bill Clears Legislative Hurdle

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah House approved legislation Wednesday that would allow concealed weapons holders to take their guns into all public schools.

The House's 56-15 vote is the last major legislative hurdle for the bill. The Senate has already approved the bill by a 21-4 vote. It is now headed to Gov. Mike Leavitt, who said he has yet to see the bill and would not comment further on whether he'd sign it into law, said spokeswoman Natalie Gochnour.

The legislation resolves a conflict in state law that has pitted a school code prohibiting dangerous weapons against a more recent concealed-weapons law that omits schools from a list of secure places such as airports and courthouses where only law enforcement can take guns.

The bill's last debate was dominated by those disagreeing with allowing guns in schools.

Rep. Judy Buffmire, D-Salt Lake City, said the conflict in current law also could be solved by banning guns from schools, with the exception of police officers and those who have received the school principal's permission.

She said concealed weapons carriers are not trained to protect large groups of people, and the state law does not require the carriers to know how to fire a gun.

"I urge you to consider what you are doing," Buffmire said. "You may have the right to defend yourself, but you do not have the right to protect me or the children I sent to Utah schools. I believe they are safer without guns in schools."

However, Rep. Brad Johnson said Buffmire's proposal would hurt only law abiding citizens.

"You're not effecting anybody but the good guys. The bad guys can take guns to schools whenever they want and there are already laws against that," said Johnson, R-Aurora.

Her proposal to ban guns in schools and on school grounds was then defeated by a 51-17 vote.

Rep. Carol Moss, D-Holladay, said the public does not want to allow guns in schools. On this bill she has only heard from concerned parents hoping to defeat the proposal.

"We should think about who we represent here: the parents of these children or special interests?" she said.

Before the lawmakers approved the legislation, they gave churches more ways to notify the public if they decide to ban concealed weapons including newspaper notices, church bulletins, and must be posted on the Bureau of Criminal Investigation's Web site.

Instead of every five years, churches must make that statement every year.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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