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Contentious gun bill won’t appear in 2016 session

First Published      Last Updated Feb 09 2016 10:50 pm


Malheur fallout » Utah senators say the ‘‘optics’’ and timing are bad in light of the armed occupation of the Oregon wildlife refuge.

A bill that would let Utahns carry concealed firearms without a permit won't make it out of the holster this year, in part because of the "optics" resulting from a standoff with an armed militia at an Oregon wildlife refuge.

Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, said that, after discussing his proposal Tuesday in a closed caucus of Senate Republicans, he won't introduce his "constitutional carry" gun bill.

"[Senate] President [Wayne Niederhauser] called me in and said he's had some people with concerns about it," Hinkins said, although he did not know who had voiced concerns to the president.

Niederhauser said he was contacted by community and business leaders. It was not, he said, representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that had opposed the bill.




"I have no idea," Hinkins said. "I said, 'OK, well, if that's the will of the [Senate], OK, I'll just go ahead and hold it this year.'"

Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, said that the bill didn't have the support that Hinkins might have anticipated when it was brought up in the closed caucus and believed the lukewarm reception was due in part to the militia standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

"There may be an issue with timing on this one," Okerlund said. "The optics of this bill coming out now with what's going on in the country and in Oregon, maybe we [should] put off the discussion."

Four people continued Tuesday to occupy the refuge after the arrest of 16 others on Jan. 26. Meanwhile, Ammon Bundy, a leader of the standoff continued to make his voice heard from jail, where he awaits trial on a federal conspiracy charge. He called on elected officials from eight states ­— including Utah — to support their constituents who were arrested.

Shawna Cox, 59, of Kanab was arrested but released

"Please visit and contact them to voice your support for free speech, the right to assemble, and civil disobedience," Bundy said, according to a transcript published in The Oregonian. "It is your duty to hold federal agencies at bay, protecting the people in your state."

Hinkins' bill would have allowed any Utahn over the age of 21 to carry a concealed firearm. Currently, a weapons owner has to take a firearms safety course and pass a background check to obtain a concealed weapons permit that enables the gun owner to carry a concealed firearm.

A nearly identical bill passed the Legislature in 2013, but it was vetoed by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, who said he believed the state's existing system of requiring background checks in order to get a concealed weapon permit was working well.

This year, Herbert had publicly said he would veto the bill again if it was the same as had been proposed in the past.

"I suspect it should be something different than what we had before for me to embrace it," Herbert said earlier in the session.

Despite the veto threat, Hinkins had planned to move ahead with the bill until Tuesday's meeting.

"The governor already said he'd veto it anyway and if I didn't get two-thirds vote, there's no sense going through all the hassle. So I'll just sit on it," Hinkins said.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke

 

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