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Politics & Government

Utah lawmaker’s push for expanded background checks on guns stalls in committee

House Minority Leader Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City
Ivana Martinez
/
KUER
House Minority Leader Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City said this type of legislation would be a step in the right direction to preventing gun violence.

House Minority Leader Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City has been pushing to expand background checks on firearms in Utah for the past four years.

H.B.133 would’ve required people who are not federal firearms licensees to do criminal background checks when they sell or transfer guns. The bill failed to pass out of a House committee Wednesday.

King said his legislation was a “moderate and reasonable approach” to addressing gun violence and safety in the state. He pointed to neighboring states like New Mexico, which have already adopted this kind of legislation.

“We have God-given rights to feel safe and secure,” King said. “Do we always feel that way? Of course not. Should we take reasonable measures to increase the likelihood that everybody who associates with us in this great state feels that way? I think the answer is yes.”

Currently, under Utah state law, licensed dealers are required to have potential buyers pass background checks, but that’s not the case for private sales or transfers.

King’s bill would’ve changed that by making it illegal for an unlicensed person to buy or sell a gun without completing a background check.

“I don't pretend to think that expanding background checks is going to eliminate the murder of other individuals or eliminate suicide, that's naive,” King said. “But we're making a step in the right direction. We're going to save some lives.”

The bill also carved out a list of exceptions including family members and law enforcement agencies.

However, opponents of the legislation argued that this wouldn’t impact gun safety — a big argument for these kinds of background checks. Clark Aposhian, chair of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said the bill would be ineffective.

“Criminals have been shown to simply make this requirement meaningless as they acquire weapons in other ways,” Aposhian said. “They steal them, [use] third-party transfers or they purchase them on the black market.”

Despite the bill failing to pass out of committee, a 2019 Y2 Analytics poll found that 88% of Utahns support background checks on all gun sales.

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