Utah lawmakers are into the third week of the 45-day general session and they are considering weapon-restriction laws to try to balance protecting vulnerable populations and second amendment rights.
“I would just say that it’s important that we do both – that we protect society, but we also do everything we can to protect our rights,” said Representative Cory Maloy, R-District 6.
This is the major point upon which he and Representative Steve Handy, R-District 16, agree. But Maloy and Handy disagree on whether Utah’s existing weapons restrictions have gone far enough. Handy has authored House Bill 209, an extreme risk protective order, or ERPO bill, to address what he thinks is a major gap in the existing restrictions.
“It’s an expansion of the protective order which we have in the code," Hand said. "But in a protective order, a person is making a threat against a specific individual. There’s a gap in the law: if a person is making broad-based threats to others or him or herself we can’t do anything in terms of removing the most lethal means of doing harm and that’s a firearm. We’ve spent the last eight months trying to thread the needle right to find a balance between constitutional rights – I’m a gun owner, I have a concealed carry permit – constitutional rights and finding a way to protect life and limb and society.”
The legislation, if passed, will require a warrant from a judge before firearms can be removed. If false claims are made against an individual, the accuser is subject to a third-degree felony. Handy stressed that the bill has a high level of due process. But Maloy is unsure.
“The problem with an ERPO law is that it basically says we’re going to come get your firearms and infringe upon the second amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” Maloy said.
In response, Maloy authored a non-binding resolution, HJR 7, which states that Utah’s existing legislation appropriately balances second amendment rights and protections against gun violence. The ERPO bill is currently being read in the House Rules Committee, and the non-binding resolution passed in the Utah House on 2/14/19.