One of the areas identified by the Giffords Law Center as being in need of improvement in the state of Utah is the nexus between domestic violence and gun violence. Currently, Utah law does not:
Require courts to notify domestic abusers when they become prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law; or
Require the surrender of firearms or ammunition by domestic abusers who have become prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law.
With the beginning of the new session of the Utah state legislature, local activists are hoping a trio of bills help close some of these loopholes. At the recent Utah Domestic Violence Coalition Advocacy Day, the group came out to advocate for a number of domestic violence protections, including:
HB 17, which allows for law enforcement to remove firearms from the home of a person deemed at risk of harming themselves;
HB 190, which makes the owner of a firearm liable if their weapon is used by someone else to commit violence;
and HB 209, which allows a family member to have a person prohibited by the courts from possessing firearms.
HB 190 is of particular interest to the UDVC. From Rosie Nguyen, ABC 4:
H.B. 190 is also known as 'Lauren's Law,' named after Lauren McCluskey, the University of Utah track and field athlete who was killed by her ex-boyfriend in October.
"We’ve seen a tremendous number of bills come forward, I think, as a reaction to that terrible tragedy at the University of Utah, which was so preventable in so many ways. It actually would have been Lauren’s 22nd birthday today," said Jenn Oxborrow, Executive Director of the UDVC.
Survivors of suicide were also on hand in support of HB 209. Among them was Taryn Hiatt, who lost her father to suicide and who had attempted to take her own life several times. Now, she’s the area director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. From Annie Knox, Deseret News:
"I'm grateful for the support I had and the family members I reached out to, and that I didn't have access to something lethal," said Hiatt, the area director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. "If someone in your home is in crisis, let's put time and distance between them and the firearm so they have the opportunity to live."
[…] HB209 would create a path allowing family members to ask authorities to take guns away from someone who has recently made a threat, violated a protective order, shown a pattern of violence in the last year or threatened self-harm.
All three of these bills are on LEAP Forward’s Utah Report Card, and will continue to be tracked and scored as they move through the legislature. I will be scoring support for all three.