Commentary: How do reasonable people become gun zealots?

FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2019, file photo, the floor of the Utah House of Representatives is shown during the first day of the Utah legislative session, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, file)

The 2019 Utah legislative session, dominated by LDS Republicans, was a stunning exhibit of Mormon values simply forgotten. Dismissed.

The honest, otherwise decent legislators are probably good husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and loyal members of their faith. Yet it is shocking to observe the spectacular metamorphosis that occurs when they have to address a gun issue. Suddenly they become rabid, myopic disciples of the NRA, spouting the same old fears about the slippery slope to gun confiscation.

For some, the Second Amendment is no longer enough. They now claim a God-given right to have a gun.

Where did these people go to Sunday school? What about the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount? How can responsible citizens trust GOP legislators when every one of them got an A grade from the NRA? This seems more like a cabal than a political party.

The mindless, permissive gun laws demanded by the NRA have produced a gun violence epidemic in which gun rights trump human life. How can patriotic Americans support an anti-government, seditious NRA that promises revolution if the government doesn't comply with its outrageous demands?

GOP-NRA policies focus on the few gun addicts who need a gun available 24/7, not the responsible gun owners willing to accept regulations that save lives. The problem is the majority of citizens is essentially being held hostage by policies demanded by a small minority. Polls show that most citizens feel vulnerable to gun violence and prefer greater regulation. Authentic democracy honors the will of the majority.

For the first time in four decades the legislature had nine bills focused on saving lives through modest regulations yet not one of them made it out of committee.

Following are a few of these bills:

  • A universal background check requiring that all gun sales go through a licensed dealer (supported by 90 percent of Utahns).

  • A safe storage bill requiring that all guns are locked up in the owner’s absence (reducing teen suicide).

  • A red flag law that would allow guns to be legally removed from an individual proven to be a danger to self, to others, or both.

  • Lauren’s Law, which would extend liability to a person lending a gun that is used to commit a crime.

  • A law that makes bump stocks illegal.

  • A bill forbidding open carry of a gun within 500 feet of a school.

There were three other bills, as innocuous as the six mentioned above, which couldn’t possibly offend anyone with common decency and common sense. Yet they were rejected easily by the GOP-NRA cabal. Colorado and Nevada, neighboring states steeped in the cowboy tradition, broke the NRA stranglehold by passing universal background checks.

The Utah GOP did, however, pass the Stand Your Ground Bill, another permissive law that allows an armed individual to shoot first and ask questions later if they in any way feel threatened. Also passed was a joint resolution that rejects any future gun regulations -- which is odd, as few gun regulations exist in this state.

We can expect in the coming years that an unfortunate number of young men will continue to commit suicide and more domestic partners will be murdered. And citizens will be expected to accept the gun violence epidemic as the status quo. Even though GOP legislators do not pull the trigger, they work vigorously to make sure the trigger is available to all the wrong people.

What will Utah be like if this continues for another 20 years? Certainly not the kind of place you’d want to live. Nor a favorable location for the headquarters of a worldwide church. An armed society can easily become a violent society. So wake up Utahns. You have the right to a safe place to live and that can only happen when the GOP-NRA cabal is stripped of its power.

Ron Molen, Salt Lake City, is a retired architect and a strong advocate for intelligent, well-crafted gun regulations.