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McEntee: Sure as shootin' — more gun goofiness at Utah's Capitol

Published February 10, 2013 10:53 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As usual, Utah lawmakers have fired off a bunch of gun proposals, some of them laughable and some deluded, and the one that made sense has run into opposition.

That bill, sponsored by Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, would restrict outdoor target shooting when temperatures, conditions and the spark caused by a bullet striking a rock could start a wildfire — as happened last summer in Saratoga Springs.

I mean, she's Margaret Dayton, a hard-right legislator and a darling of the Utah Eagle Forum, and even she has to defend a perfectly sensible piece of legislation? That's nuts.

On the other hand, a bill that would elevate Utah laws over federal ones regarding firearms is quietly awaiting a committee hearing despite the fact that it's misguided.

Meantime, its sponsor, Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, is touting his screed against the federal government. In a January op-ed piece that appeared in Ogden's Standard-Examiner, he argues that the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause has been misunderstood and that states have the right to "govern the health, safety and welfare of the people."

Basically, Greene says, the U.S. has no case for regulating firearms; only states can do that. His HB114 asserts: "All laws, orders, rules and regulations pertaining to firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition enacted by the Legislature shall enjoy legal primacy within this state over any and all conflicting federal acts, laws, orders, rules and regulations pertaining to firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition."

Now, Greene, a freshman representative, is a lawyer. But the Legislature's Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel has experience parsing proposed laws, and it looked to the U.S. Supreme Court for guidance.

The analysts concluded that Greene's bill "purports to limit the reach of the federal law and is inconsistent with existing federal firearms provisions. … There is a high probability that a court will find this bill violates the [Constitution's] Supremacy and Commerce clauses."

Seems pretty definitive, doesn't it? Maybe, just maybe, the House Rules Committee will just let Greene's bill quietly molder until the 2013 session ends.

Of course, the gun talk has been anything but quiet so far, especially since President Barack Obama unveiled his regulations in the aftermath of the shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn.

Venomous statements, online postings and gun-rights rallies are chilling to those of us who own guns but understand the need for limits, particularly on high-powered weapons that give shooters firepower normally associated with the battlefield.

Sadly, some sort of reconciliation between fervid gun-rights advocates and those with milder views seems impossible in this deeply divided state and nation, and that's a shame that will taint us all.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @pegmcentee.