Utah

Utah House passes resolution saying they don't need any more gun laws by Charles Yeganian

The Giffords Law Center published their most recent gun law scorecard recently, and Utah … didn’t do great.

The state received a D- from the group, and Giffords identified at least eleven areas in which gun laws could be improved by the state legislature, including some pretty glaring deficiencies when it comes to background checks, licensing of dealers and gun owners, limiting the number of firearms a person can buy in a certain time period, and curtailing possession by the mentally ill.

Despite this, and despite Utah’s gun death rate being higher than the national average, House Republicans - on a strictly party line vote - passed a Joint Resolution this week saying that the laws they have on the books are fine, and should be enforced before any new laws are considered.

From Mori Kessler, St. George News:

The resolution came before the House on the one-year anniversary of the mass-shooting massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida, which had a cascade effect of multiple states considering and enacting new gun laws in its wake.

The anniversary of the shooting was mentioned by Rep. Brad King, D-Salt Lake City, who did not agree with language in the resolution that stated “that the Legislature recognizes that the laws already found in the Utah Code provide sufficient tools for protecting its citizens from the threat of fatal violence.”

LEAP Forward is grading HJR 7 and scoring opposition. Utah’s report card also has seven new laws that are being scored in support, including HB 209, a red flag law that has 68% support among Utahans but one that Republicans in the state apparently don’t think is necessary.

HJR 7 now moves to the state Senate.

Three firearms bills are on the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition's radar for 2019 by Charles Yeganian

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.

Utah Rep. Steve Eliason (R) Looks to Expand on Suicide Prevention Laws by Charles Yeganian

According to Eliason, for the average youth there are 15 minutes or less between when a youth thinks about taking their life and makes an attempt. Because of that, he is looking at ways to ensure firearms are not readily available during that time since in Utah, firearms are the most common method of suicide deaths.

Eliason is proposing HB17, which addresses trigger locks, firearm safety information and suicide prevention courses.

“The reality is that the likelihood that the firearm they purchased is going to be used to kill a member of their own family is exponentially greater than that the firearm is going to be used to stop an intruder from coming into their home," Eliason said.

LEAP Forward will be grading action on HB 17 and is scoring support.