On the first day state lawmakers were able to open new bill requests for the 2019 legislative session, Utah Democrats unveiled one of their top priorities: reducing gun violence.
“We just think this is an issue whose time has come,” said Salt Lake City Rep. Brian King, the House’s top Democrat.
King and three other Democrats opened a handful of bill files Tuesday on a range of topics dealing with firearms, including universal background checks and requiring unused guns to be locked up.
But Democrats say the legislation wouldn’t infringe on the Second Amendment.
“I’m a gun owner,” Rep. King said. “I’m not anti-Second Amendment. I don’t have a problem with guns per se, but I do have a problem with these levels of injury and death that we have across Utah and across the country.”
King’s bill would require backgrounds checks on all gun sales in the state, including online and sales at gun shows, where they are not currently required.
“This is common sense legislation,” said King. “Polling regularly shows that 90 percent of Utahns support requiring background checks for all gun sales, and this support is consistent across the country as well.”
Other bills requested by Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, would ban bump stock sales and provide options for Utahns to safely dispose of their firearms.
Arent also wants to run a resolution urging Congress to repeal the 1996 Dickey Amendment, which has largely prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence.
Other Democrat-requested bills would require guns to be locked up with not in use and would ban firearms near schools.
Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, said he’s become concerned with an increasing number of lockdowns at Utah schools after someone is spotted with a gun nearby.
“Our children’s education shouldn’t have to routinely be disrupted because someone wants to brandish a weapon outside a school,” he said.
After the shooting in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day, Utah lawmakers introduced a “red flag bill” that would have allowed law enforcement to confiscate the guns of someone at risk to themselves or others, but it didn’t make it through.
Any bill restricting firearms would need to earn support from some members of the Republican-controlled legislature. King said he’s talking with Second Amendment supporters to hear their concerns. He hopes by involving them, Republicans will jump on board, too.
“I think sometimes we write off people on the other side of these issues a little too quickly,” King said. “We need to work as hard as we can to find common ground with Republicans and specifically people that are really concerned about Second Amendment issues.”