A resolution opposing additional gun control became the first major gun legislation of the Utah Legislature’s 2019 session on Tuesday, bringing out advocates on both sides of the contentious issue.
The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee approved the nonbinding resolution by Rep. Cory Maloy, R-Lehi, that states the best way to reduce gun violence is to enforce laws already in place.
“It’s a good combination, in my opinion, of protecting society while also not infringing upon our rights,” said Maloy.
The resolution lists in detail firearm restrictions for offenses in Utah’s criminal code, concluding that there are enough laws to provide “necessary protections for those with reason to suspect fatal violence without compromising vital constitutional rights.”
The committee’s two Democrats, Reps. Andrew Stoddard and Angela Romero, were the only lawmakers to vote against measure, which next heads to the House.
“I feel like it’s a bad policy for the Legislature to say ‘We have enough laws in any certain arena that we don’t need anymore,’” said Stoddard, D-Midvale.
More than a dozen people — roughly divided between supporters and opponents — spoke during public comment.. Critics of the measure pointed to Utah’s high rate of gun-related suicides as evidence that the state should do more.
“Firearms account for half of all suicides,” said Noah Blumenthal, a student organizer of the local March for Our Lives chapter. “So it is vital we pass laws that ensure safe carrying or safe storage of firearms so that we can reduce the rates of suicide.”
But Brian Judy, Utah state director of the National Rifle Association, countered that the bill sends an important message that before new laws are enacted, existing laws should be enforced.
“In this era, when there are heinous and horrific crimes, there is frequently a predictable rush to do something in response,” said Judy.
Maloy was the sponsor of legislation last year that reinforced Utah’s “stand your ground” laws on a person’s right to self-defense. That bill passed the House but did not come to a vote in the Senate.
The final vote on Tuesday indicates a tough road ahead for Democrats and some moderate Republicans who had hoped to introduce gun reform bills this year. That includes a “red flag” law from Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, which would allow confiscation of weapons from individuals who pose an imminent threat.