Gun bills will be locked and loaded for the legislative session when six firearms measures are sent to committees Friday — several of which are moving Utah in the opposite direction of a federal push for more restrictions on gun rights.
Rep. Dean Sanpei, R-Provo and chairman of the House Rules Committee, said the disbursement of bills would include a proposal to make Utah a constitutional carry state, one that would allow local sheriffs to arrest federal agents for attempting to seize weapons from Utah residents and a bill prohibiting local authorities from charging a person with disorderly conduct for simply having a weapon visible.
He didn’t say if they’d all go to the same committee.
"It’s to be determined," Sanpei said.
But as most of the several firearms-related bills have yet to make it to committee, two bills were heard Thursday that gun activists were monitoring closely.
Rep. Don Ipson, R-St. George, saw his proposal, HB28 on campus safety, pass out of the Senate Education Committee 6-0 after a two-minute presentation and vote.
Ipson has gone to great lengths to say his measure "has nothing to do with firearms." But the National Rifle Association and the Utah Shooting Sports Council wanted assurances that it wouldn’t allow college law enforcement to cite and remove people from campuses simply because they were carrying weapons.
Ipson said, under his bill, someone could only be kicked off campus for engaging in "reckless behavior" whether or not they were armed. He said people legally carrying a firearm would still be allowed to do so on college campuses.
"The firearm itself doesn’t constitute behavior. But if they’re reckless with it or with whatever they’re doing, they’re subject to removal."
Clark Aposhian, Chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, showed up at Senate Education Committee hearing, but said he wouldn’t testify because "it’s not a gun bill."
The measure passed already passed the House of Representatives and will now go to the Senate.
The other firearm measure that got a committee hearing Thursday was SB107.
That measure, sponsored by Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, sought to open defunct and mothballed shooting ranges to groups led by licensed instructors looking to bolster proficiency amid those who take concealed-weapons classes.
It would also open up some shooting ranges to the public for group use when not in use by law enforcement.
Christensen said there was a dire shortage of shooting ranges in the state.
But his bill was held in committee after concerns were raised by Roslyn Rainey, legislative representative for the Salt Lake City Police Association, who worried about letting groups of people into shooting ranges that were attached to armories with law enforcement not knowing the backgrounds of the people there.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said he liked the idea of opening up more ranges and getting some out of mothballs, but thought the bill wasn’t ready yet and asked for Christensen to pull the bill to work with law enforcement’s concerns.
He said, for example, Peace Officers Standards and Training shooting ranges are just open spaces without lanes for each shooter.
"There are not dividers," Thatcher said. "There are not barriers (between you) if the guy next you isn’t smart enough to know how to clear a jam."
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