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Gov. Cox thinks Utah’s lawmakers can find common ground on safe gun storage

Governor's Monthly News Conference-1, June 16, 2022
Laura Seitz
/
Deseret News, pool
Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during his monthly news conference at PBS Utah at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 16, 2022.

During his June monthly news conference Thursday, Gov. Spencer Cox took questions about gun reform efforts, the economy and water conditions in the state.

Gun violence

In the aftermath of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Cox said he was grateful Utah hasn’t seen a similar tragic event.

But he added, “the odds are that it will happen here.”

“And I'm probably going to have to be the one to stand in front of those parents and look them in the eye,” Cox said. “It's going to be devastating if I can't in good faith say we tried to do something.”

The governor said he’s talked with legislative leaders about how to address gun violence and asked them to “keep an open mind” to solutions.

That could include additional funding going toward mental health resources. He’s also open to discussing extreme risk protection orders — so-called “red flag laws” that allow judges to temporarily take away guns from people who are considered by family members or law enforcement to be a danger to themselves or others. He still has concerns about how they could impact people’s Second Amendment rights.

One area where he thinks state leaders can find common ground is safely storing weapons.

“Maybe adding some new laws around locking guns, making sure gun locks are available ubiquitously and making sure that people who are not locking up their guns are held accountable,” he said. “I do believe that there are some things that we can do to come together to make a difference in this space.”

Drought

Utah’s drought continues, with nearly all of the state in severe or extreme drought. However, the state of emergency Cox proclaimed in April in response to the dry conditions has expired.

It needed approval from lawmakers for renewal. Cox said it was a mutual decision between him and legislative leaders to let it end, and they’re all “on the same page” about the seriousness of the situation.

The point of the declaration, he said, was really to bring public awareness to the issue.

“I don't think the average person is sitting on their couch going, ‘Well, that expired, I guess I can turn on my sprinklers in the middle of the day and in a rainstorm and let them ride.’”

Cox said the end of the declaration won’t impact the resources currently available to respond to the drought.

Additionally, with the hot and dry weather, he said he’s working with city leaders across the state on potential fireworks restrictions.

Inflation

Cox also talked about efforts to ease the impacts of inflation. He has previously shown support for fare-free transit, to help people save on gas. That’s something the governor said is still being discussed.

He’s also “desperately” concerned about Utahns who are struggling to afford food.

Now, Cox said they’re looking at providing millions of dollars in funding to food pantries to help them keep up with the needs of communities.

“When [my wife and I] were first married and had little kids, we'd go to the grocery store with a calculator, and we would have to add up everything we put in our cart, and add the tax in and take stuff out,” he said. “That's how we got through. There are hundreds of thousands of Utahns that still have to do that.”

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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