It's not surprising for a state that just adopted the nation's first official state firearm. But a national group that opposes gun violence just gave Utah gun laws the lowest-possible score on its annual scorecard which made pro-gun lawmakers cheer, but appalled local anti-violence groups.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence this week gave Utah, Arizona and Alaska all scores of zero, and said they "do not have a single common sense gun law on their books."
Utah won an additional "honor" from the group that Arizona and Alaska did not. It won one of its "Craziest Gun Laws" awards, for allowing guns on college campuses.
"After the Tucson shootings, there was a public outcry, once again, over gun violence. With each new high-profile shooting, people wonder why," said Brady Campaign President Paul Hemke. "That's why we're issuing this scorecard to educate and motivate elected officials and the general public."
But Utah's low score actually had pro-gun Utah lawmakers cheering.
"I'm glad we got a zero from that group. I actually wish we would get a negative score from them like an F-minus-minus," said Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, a concealed weapons permit instructor who this year passed a bill that erased a 1,000-foot gun-free buffer around schools. He failed on another controversial "feral cat" bill to allow shooting feral animals in rural areas.
Oda said that in Utah, "We continually push for safety and education. But the 'antis' don't want education. They just want an all-out ban. Their mission is to get rid of guns all together."
Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman who this year passed a bill to make the Browning-designed M-1911 handgun the official state firearm chuckled when he heard that the Brady Campaign gave California the highest score for gun laws among the states.
"Would the head of the Brady Center feel safer walking down the street at midnight in Salt Lake City or in south central Los Angeles?" he asked. "That tells me how effective the gun laws are that they want. So ultimately I view their ranking of us as good."
Oda added, "As far as concerned, these anti-gun people are really anti-self defense."
Oda said most Utahns support lawmakers' approach on guns "because they are freedom-minded, and understand what the Second Amendment is [guaranteeing the right to bear arms]. Without the Second Amendment, the rest of the Constitution would not mean a thing because we would not have a way to defend our freedoms."
Meanwhile, Gary Sackett, a board member of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah, said he was appalled that Oda and Wimmer cheered Utah's low score.
"Responses like that show a childish and unrealistic approach to gun violence. It's highly disturbing in a civilized country that we place no more value than that to the danger of having firearms everywhere," he said.
Sackett said the new scorecard shows that generally, with some exceptions, states with high grades have low rates of firearm-related deaths, "So there is a reason to pass the laws" they advocate.
"Any thinking person should be concerned with having firearms in the hands of the wrong people," Sackett said, and should push for such things "as closing the gun show loophole" in Utah where firearms are sold without background checks.
Best, worst gun laws
1 • California, 80 points
2 • New Jersey, 72 points
3 • Massachussetts, 65 points
50 • Alaska, 0 points
50 • Arizona, 0 points
50 • Utah, 0 points
Source: Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence