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OPINION: Background checks for all gun show sales likely to face challenge

Photo: KSL TV

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom. 

Sounds to me like  Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson may be overstepping her authority when it comes to firearms. I addressed that subject on my new show, Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry.

Salt Lake County will now require background checks for all firearms purchases at gun shows at county-owned facilities, starting January 1.

Mayor Wilson said she has attended gun shows and appreciated the level of security but felt as mayor the new requirement is something she was within her official duties of enacting.

“I felt, as do many in the community, in fact, most in the community, that background checks are indeed a good thing as a preventative measure,” Wilson said at a press conference Monday announcing the policy change.

Licensed gun dealers are required to perform background checks on firearms sales at county gun shows, but private sellers at the shows are not held to the same requirement.

Guns shows are hosted at three county-owned facilities: primarily at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy, but also at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City, and the Equestrian Park in South Jordan.

Wilson added that county legal counsel has signed off on the policy change.

I support gun rights

I am a second amendment enthusiast and was raised from age 2 to go out shooting and hunting. I view it as a hobby and enjoy it. I also consider myself to be part of the community.

I don’t see the s0-called Gunshow Loophole as a loophole. I don’t see it as an exploitation of any type of law or lack thereof.

KSL News reporter Mary Richards joined me on the show to tell me about what she heard at the mayor’s news conference.

Richards said Rob Templeton, vice president of Crossroads of the West Gun Shows, told her that meeting the new county requirement of background checks on private sales will be difficult.

Wilson said she supported the rights of gun owners but had to do something about the risk of a firearm sold at a gun show being used in a crime.

Wilson was asked if a firearm sold at a county gun show was ever connected to any crime.

“There, as far as I know, luckily, have not been incidents at our facilities,” she responded.

Gun rights defender

Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, who also joined the conversation on Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry, agreed with the mayor.

“We don’t have a problem, let alone a pattern of a problem,” he said.

“There are men, women and kids thinking about suicide right now,” he said. “And in her county, instead of doing something meaningful about that, which is about 90 percent of our gun deaths, she focuses on something that isn’t a problem. She’s not concerned about reducing gun violence in any way and it showed by her efforts today.”

Aposhian also pointed out that the state legislature sets all gun laws in the state. But he said the state allows cities, not counties, to restrict firearm discharge at certain times and in certain areas, adding those are the only two exceptions.

“The legislature guards its statutes very jealously,” Aposhian said. “They don’t like a county mayor thumbing her nose at the legislative intent of the statues. I mean if it weren’t for this we would have a patchwork of different gun laws in at least the 29 counties.”

Aposhian added in 2006 the Utah Supreme Court struck down an attempt by the University of Utah to ban all firearms on campus.

“We simply cannot agree with the proposition that the Utah Constitution restricts the Legislature’s ability to enact firearms laws pertaining to the university,” wrote Utah Supreme Court Justice Jill Parish at the time for the 4-1 majority.

Aposhian cited Utah state code 53-5A-102, part 5 of which states:

Unless specifically authorized by the Legislature by statute, a local authority or state entity may not enact, establish, or enforce any ordinance, regulation, rule, or policy pertaining to firearms that in any way inhibits or restricts the possession or use of firearms on either public or private property.

I predict that the mayor’s move on background checks will be met with a strong legislative or judicial challenge.

Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.