Rolly: No, Utah Republicans, now is precisely the time to talk about gun limits

Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Paul Rolly.

Several days after 20 grade schoolers and six adults were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, Rep. Greg Hughes said he was sick of the anti-gun rhetoric.

“I’ve had a bellyful,” the Draper Republican said on the Saturday morning Red Meat Radio program.

After the shooting, then-President Barack Obama along with numerous Democratic lawmakers called for stricter gun laws, particularly enhancing background checks to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.

Hughes, now the Utah House speaker, joined a chorus of conservative politicians echoing sentiments from the National Rifle Association — that the aftermath of a mass shooting, when emotions run high, is not the time to discuss gun policies.

Well, here we go again, and the question arises: When is it time to talk about gun policies?

The killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., revives the debate. And political pundits this week are focusing on Congress’ inability to pass any meaningful legislation attempting to curb gun violence.

It’s no coincidence that a major contributor to congressional campaigns is the gun lobby, anchored by the NRA, which abhors gun limits.

An analysis reported in Politico recently showed that in the 2016 election cycle, gun rights groups contributed $5.9 million to House Republicans, compared to $106,000 to Democrats.

Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, was the six highest House recipient of the gun lobby’s largess, getting $63,350 in campaign contributions. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., received $171,977.

For the record, here’s what Utah’s other representatives received from the gun lobby that year: Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz (who since has left Congress) brought in $14,500 apiece, while Chris Stewart got $7,000.

Bishop, Love, Stewart and newly minted Rep. John Curtis all voted last December for a bill forcing all states to honor concealed-weapons permits from any other state — even if the requirements for those licenses don’t meet the host state’s standards.

The NRA, of course, backed that bill.

Hughes is hardly alone in his “bellyful” sentiment. The Utah Legislature prides itself on being a Second Amendment champion.

But how many “bellyfuls” will it take before Republicans in Congress and the Utah Legislature realize there is a problem with the easy access and proliferation of guns that can kill a lot of people in a short period of time?

Since Sandy Hook, 58 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival; 49 people were gunned down in an Orlando nightclub; 26 people were slain at a Texas Baptist Church; 14 people were shot to death during a Christmas office party in San Bernardino, Calif.

Yet those weren’t the times to talk about the problem with gun violence in America. Such talk was liberal propaganda, right?

In fact, after 12 students and one teacher were killed in 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado, our own Sen. Orrin Hatch introduced legislation to prohibit people from suing gun manufacturers whose weapons were used during a crime.

Hatch earned an A-plus rating from the NRA.

In the Utah Legislature, guns are not seen as weapons that need to be regulated; they are celebrated as iconic symbols.

Utah lawmakers have established an official state firearm, right up there with the state flower and state tree.

Haven’t we all had a bellyful by now?