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Editorial: House bills see Utah as a violent place, and seek to make it more so

First Published      Last Updated Feb 22 2017 10:02 am

The vision of Utah that arises from some of the bills making their way through the Legislature is one of a violent, dystopian jungle where public order and human decency have disintegrated to the point where it is every man, woman and teenager for themselves.

How else to explain a series of measures that assume a constant level of danger and a breakdown of the civil order in Utah such that encouraging more people to carry firearms and use deadly force is considered a step forward?

The Utah House on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow something called a "provisional permit to carry a concealed firearm" for people as young as 18. Passed on a party line 63-12 vote, House Bill 198 was sold by its sponsor, Clearfield Republican Karianne Lisonbee, as means for young women to defend themselves against rape.




In the movies, maybe.

In real life, the idea that more pistol-packing co-eds would deter sexual assault is a thin reed that ignores the infinitely more likely results: more accidental shootings. More arguments that otherwise would have resulted in hurt feelings and severed friendships culminating instead in bloodshed and death. And, of special concern to anyone who knows anything or cares at all about teenage life, another boost in the already alarming rate of youth suicide.

Even Utah's gun-loving culture has set 21 as the minimum age for being allowed a concealed-carry permit. There is no reason to relax that standard.

Also before the House is a new, totally unnecessary, version of what is widely known as the Stand Your Ground law.

Current Utah law reasonably allows the use of deadly force by individuals who have cause to believe that it is necessary to protect themselves, or another person, from imminent harm. Reasonable because, well, that's what people do.

House Bill 259, though, would go beyond that, placing into the law the provision that such use of deadly force is not to be questioned by the criminal justice system even in cases where simply retreating would have solved the problem.

This approach, which survived a 6-4 committee vote last Friday, is less about reasonable self-defense and more about double dog daring people to turn a dicey situation into a deadly one, the better part of valor be damned.

At a time when police chiefs are struggling to create cultures of peaceful resolution among their own trained officers, a state law that enshrines the ethos of shoot first and ask questions later among civilians is no help at all.

Utah is not, today, a particularly violent place. But these bills, and others like them, start out thinking that it is, and promise only to make it worse.

 

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