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Utah Democrats Prepare Slate Of Gun Reform Bills, With One Backed By Mother Of Slain Ute Athlete

Austen Diamond for KUER

Three weeks after Lauren McCluskey’s murder at the University of Utah, Jill McCluskey sent a Tweet saying the person who lent a gun to her daughter’s killer should face prosecution.

According to the police report, Melvin Rowland borrowed the weapon from a friend claiming he wanted to teach his girlfriend how to shoot. Instead, Rowland used the gun to shoot the 21-year-old McCluskey and later himself on Oct. 22.

Now, newly elected state Rep. Andrew Stoddard, a Midvale Democrat, says he plans to open a bill next session that would allow Rowland’s friend to be held liable in civil court.

It’s one of a slate of bills Utah Democrats are preparing to curb gun violence.

“What I would like to accomplish is that the person who has a gun, they’re going to think twice about loaning it to someone else,” Stoddard said. “Because they would share some of the responsibility if something does happen with it.”

Stoddard is still working with stakeholders on the exact language of the bill, which he’s dubbed “Lauren’s Law.” He’s also carving out exceptions for instances when a weapon is stolen or used in self-defense.

“Everyone has a respect for the Second Amendment, and doesn’t necessarily want to infringe on it,” he said. “But I feel like there’s a lot of common ground for people to come together and say, ‘Yeah, you know, these are changes we’re willing to make because they’re smart.’”

The bills will likely face opposition in Utah’s Republican-controlled legislature, which has so far resisted additional gun regulations. That included scuttling a “red flag” bill during last year’s session that would’ve allowed law enforcement to confiscate weapons from a person posing a threat.

But Stoddard’s bill already has one vocal advocate, Jill McCluskey, who tweeted “Thanks! #LaurensLaw” after he announced the bill file.

Other Gun Bills In The Works:

“Concurrent Resolution Urging Congress to Repeal the Dickey Amendment”Rep. Patrice Arent (D-Millcreek) –A resolution to urge Congress to end the Dickey Amendment, enacted in 1996, that prohibits the Centers for Disease Control from conducting research on gun violence.

“Prohibition on Sale of Firearm Modification Devices “Rep. Patrice Arent (D-Millcreek) – A bill to ban bump stocks, an accessory that allows a semiautomatic weapon to fire like an automatic. The Trump administration just made bump stocks illegal on the federal level.

“Open Carry Near Schools Amendment,” Rep. Joel Briscoe (D-Salt Lake) — This bill would create a geographic zone around each of Utah's K-12 schools in which it would be illegal to openly carry firearms.

“Universal Background Checks for Firearm Purchases,” Rep. Brian King (D-Salt Lake) — This would require background checks for all firearm sales in the state, including at gun shows and private online purchases. Unlicensed dealers can currently sell a gun to people without a background check in these situations, a loophole gun control advocates have long targeted.

“Safe Storage of Firearms Amendments” Rep. Elizabeth Weight (D-West Valley City) — It would make it a criminal offense to store a firearm in a place that the firearm owner knows or has reason to believe a minor or person legally restricted from possessing a firearm has access; and it would require a firearm dealer to post written notice of prosecution for negligent storage of a firearm and provide a penalty for failure to post the notice.

-Information provided by Ross Chambless of Utah House Democratic Caucus

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