Taking proper aim
In Utah, the reaction to the reaction to the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., was for politicians to circle the wagons around extreme libertarian interpretations of the Second Amendment. Fears of federal agents presumably ferried in by United Nations black helicopters seizing our guns motivated a slew of bills. They would do everything from allowing county sheriffs to arrest those gun-grabbing feds to removing the need for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
But, it seems, tempers have cooled and people in power have started to take their responsibilities more seriously.
Slowly but surely, Utah leaders seem to be grasping the reasoning of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, leader of the court's conservative wing, who famously held in a key case that while individual gun ownership cannot be prohibited, it can be limited in many reasonable ways, including bans on concealed carry, if a state so chooses, and limits on possession by felons or the mentally ill.
One example is Sen. Margaret Dayton's SB120. The measure would allow the state forester to ban outdoor target shooting at times and in places where there is a reasonable fear of setting off wildfires. It was proposed early in the session, withdrawn in the face of knee-jerk opposition, rolled out again with some minor changes and, on Tuesday, was passed unanimously by the Senate.
It is a perfectly logical rule, which has the support of gun-rights advocates such as Rep. Curt Oda and the Utah Sheriffs Association. The House should pass it, too, and Gov. Gary Herbert should sign it into law.
Also Tuesday, the House approved HB121, called by its backers a "safe harbor" bill. It would allow people with reason to fear that they, or someone in their household, might be under too much emotional stress to safely have a firearm within reach, to store those guns at a local police station for a 60-day cooling-off period. It is a practice that could really save lives, without mandating anything.
Herbert has already apparently had a calming effect on another bill that had been moving through the process, perhaps even ending the hopes for HB76. That's the bill that would make Utah a "constitutional carry" state, removing even its thin requirement for a permit before people could carry a concealed firearm. After the governor noted that the existing law seems to be working just fine, the bill was pulled from the House calendar Tuesday.
There is plenty of time left in the session for lots of grandstanding mischief. But there is hope that a state that honors the right of gun ownership could lead the way in supporting responsible gun ownership.