SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A panel of lawmakers signed off Tuesday on a declaration that Utah doesn’t need new gun-control measures like a so-called red flag law.
The vote came after a number of people spoke for and against the resolution from Republican Rep. Cory Maloy, a pro-gun rights lawmaker who said the state should enforce its existing laws.
He said “red-flag” laws, which temporarily take guns from people acting dangerously, infringe on constitutional rights before people have done anything wrong. His proposal now goes to the full House.
“We don’t want to turn law-abiding citizens into criminals,” said Maloy. His resolution was supported by groups like the National Rifle Association while others like the student-led March for Our Lives spoke against it. It wouldn’t block gun-control bills, but is a signal that they could face an uphill battle in the conservative, gun-friendly state.
Eight states passed “red flag” legislation last year after the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting that killed 17 people. Five states already had similar laws.
Utah lawmakers rejected a version last year that would have allowed a family member or roommate to ask a court to temporarily remove firearms from someone who could harm themselves or others. Republican Rep. Steve Handy is proposing it again this year after a safe-schools commission recommended it.
“There is a gap in the law,” he told The Associated Press, calling his bill a commonsense measure that can be balanced with Second Amendment rights.
It could be used to prevent not only mass shootings, but also to keep guns from people who are suicidal, he said.
A supporter of gun control legislation, Wendy Parmley of Orem, said such a law may have made a difference in 1975 when her mother killed herself with a hunting rifle.
“She had planned her death. She had told my dad how she was going to do it,” she said. If there had been a law keeping her from firearms or mandating safe storage of guns, the outcome for her mother may have been different, she said.
Michael Slayton of Cedar City said he was also affected by gun violence growing up in California, but he’s come to a different conclusion: more laws don’t necessarily prevent it.
“When I moved here, I learned I can legally have a firearm without any reason other than to protect my family,” he said.