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Furor fading? » For the first time since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting — when the slaughter of 20 first-graders in pastoral Connecticut hijacked the nation’s peace of mind — polls show national support for new gun laws below 50 percent.
In Utah, enthusiasm for gun control remained modest even when the tragedy was fresh, according to a January poll by Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy.
At a glance
Utah legislators vow in January to resurrect HB76, a “constitutional-carry” bill that would allow Utahns to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. The measure was vetoed by Gov. Gary Herbert, and GOP lawmakers fell short of securing enough votes for an override. HB114, elevating Utah’s firearms statutes over federal laws, may also be reprised. The HB114 sponsor also wants to restore gun-ownership rights for felons convicted of non-gun-related crimes.
"I don’t think there’s any reason to believe on these questions we asked that Utahns would be more in favor of restrictions over time," says the BYU center’s Quin Monson. "But the background checks were universally approved of, with 82 percent. You don’t get that kind of support for almost anything."
Monson was surprised by that high number, "about 10 clicks lower is all" from the 92 percent of national backing for expanded background checks shortly after the shooting.
Even so, Greene argues the spike in gun-control support was destined to be short-lived. "As the emotion of crisis gets further and further in the rearview mirror," he says, "people come to their senses."
Greene also insists the Boston bombings demonstrate that government "cannot protect us."
"Police had essentially shut down the city, done sweeps, cleared property. Then, after all that, a resident saw something was wrong. He found his boat cover pulled back, bloody clothes, so they must have missed the suspect," Greene says. "Government has proven itself to be a fairly ineffective mechanism for providing security."
Curt Oda, a longtime gun-rights backer and a Republican representative from Clearfield, concurs. He says the fervor is waning because the emotion over Newtown is fading. "None of these [gun control] laws would have made a difference."
Oda remains careful but confident that lawmakers in Utah will loosen gun laws next year. "If the bills are reintroduced, what will happen?" he asks rhetorically. "With the governor we’ve got, probably the same result. I mean veto. But with regard to the votes to override, I’m a little bit more optimistic."
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