The next general session of the Utah Legislature is eight months away. But on the first day members could open files to draft legislation, House Democrats took aim at gun violence — introducing six bills targeting the topic.
“Democrats are interested in preserving Second Amendment rights, but we also see some urgent and critical areas in our laws where we need to improve safety when it comes to firearms,” said Rep. Elizabeth Weight, D-West Valley City.
Among the bill files opened are:
• Banning “bump stocks,” which allow semi-automatic rifles to shoot like rapid-fire machine guns. Such devices were used in a mass shooting last year in Las Vegas. Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, is sponsoring the legislation.
• Requiring background checks for all gun sales, closing loopholes for gun shows and private online purchases. “This is commonsense legislation,” said House Democratic leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, who is sponsoring it.
• Banning openly carrying firearms around elementary and secondary schools. Sponsor Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, says open carrying has led to school lockdowns, and “our children’s education shouldn’t have to routinely be disrupted because someone wants to brandish a weapon outside a school.”
• Requiring firearms to be stored in safes or with a locking device when not in use, sponsored by Weight.
• Urging Congress to repeal the 1996 “Dickey Amendment,” which has prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching the effects of gun violence on public health, sponsored by Arent.
• Allowing options for safe disposal of firearms. Arent also is sponsoring that. She said a constituent recently wanted to dispose of his gun without reselling it, and did not know what to do with it. “Currently we do not have an answer to this question, so we are looking at the issue,” Arent said.
The bills come after school and mass shootings created debates here and nationally on how to address gun violence. House Democrats are outnumbered 62-13, but all seats are up for election this year.