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Here’s what Utah Rep. John Curtis thinks about the gun reform proposals on the table

Republican Rep. John Curtis represents Utah's 3rd Congressional District.
House of Representatives
Republican Rep. John Curtis represents Utah's 3rd Congressional District.

As Democrats in Congress push for some kind of gun reform in the wake of recent mass shootings, Utah Rep. John Curtis opposes their proposals because he feels Republicans were left out of the process.

“It's really frustrating because I think we could make these bills better,” he said. “It just feels to me like it's not a sincere attempt to actually pass legislation as much as it's a show of ‘look, we care so much.’”

But Terri Gilfillan from the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah doesn’t buy it.

“I think that Republicans had plenty of opportunity over the last nine years since Sandy Hook to weigh in,” she said. “This has been an issue, a public health crisis in our country for many, many years. There's been many opportunities for Republicans to be involved in developing policy that would save lives.”

The House passed a package of bills Wednesday night, mostly along party lines. As CNN reports, five Republicans and two Democrats voted against their parties on the proposals. One of Curtis’ main sticking points with the legislation is the restrictions it places on high-capacity magazines.

“I would have loved to have been in that discussion, as somebody who does own firearms,” he said.

The one thing he probably could support is a bill that helps states create their own extreme risk protection orders or “red flag laws,” which allows guns to be taken from people who are considered to be a danger to themselves or others.

That’s not a new idea to Utah’s Legislature, but it definitely isn’t a popular one. Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, has unsuccessfully sponsored red flag laws multiple times in recent years.

Curtis, who received $1,000 in contributions from the National Rifle Association in 2019, said he would also like to look “deep down into society” at the issues that lead to gun violence. He suggested putting funding toward counselors who could help students “before it escalates” into violence.

Whatever the proposal, he said Congress needs more time to get things right — and that they can’t do it all.

“Everybody has to play a role in this,” he said. “If it was as simple as passing a law and these things would go away, I think we would have found that law.”

Gilfillan agreed that gun violence needs a multifaceted approach. But she believes “it is the responsibility of our federal government to protect its citizens,” and there’s no time to waste.

“I'm tired, I'm frustrated, I'm angry,” she said. “And it's not OK. It's not OK for our communities to continue to suffer in the way they have. Do something.”

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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