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Live Mic: Gun bills bite the bullet, lawmakers aim for next year

The 2020 Utah Legislature in session on its opening day. (PHOTO: KSL Newsradio's John Wojcik)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers shot down a series of gun bills, including universal background checks and proposed red-flag laws, in the 2020 Legislative Session.

One sponsor’s take

Lehi Republican Rep. Cory Maloy joined Live Mic host Lee Lonsberry to talk about his efforts to defeat what he saw as anti-Second Amendment legislation on Capitol Hill this session.

“I am a fan of the Second Amendment. I am a firearms enthusiast. I’m a hunter. I enjoy target shooting. I also believe the Constitution of the United States gives us the right to keep and bear arms,” Lee said.

“And I am a friend of any legislator who would uphold that right. And I believe Cory Maloy is just such a legislator,” the Live Mic host said, following up with this question:

“How were firearms, guns and the Second Amendment handled, in your estimation, this year during the legislative session?”

“We were able to accomplish what I think my goal was on the House side, which was to kill some of those gun-control bills… But we hit a roadblock in the Senate,” Maloy said.

“The Senate decided not to hear or present any gun bills good or bad,” he said, “so that’s been kind of an irritation on my part, but we’re still hopeful that one of the bills will go through.

“I don’t really feel it’s ‘a gun bill’…more reinforcing the fact that the state has the authority to regulate firearms and not political subdivisions [like] cities or towns or counties,” he said.

State makes the laws

Maloy referred to HB271, which would clarify that the state and only the state has the power to regulate all ordinances, regulations, rules, or policies  pertaining to firearms on either public or private property.

It took direct aim at Salt Lake County and its mayor, Jenny Wilson.

Mayor Wilson announced in December that all gun sales at events held in facilities owned by Salt Lake County would require buyers to undergo background checks starting this year. That order took effect in January.

Jenny Wilson background checks

Photo: KSL TV

Wilson noted polling that shows 88% of Utahns support background checks on gun sales.

“I know [Wilson] has a strong position, and I can respect that position, but we also have our Utah Constitution and the laws of the state of Utah, and they need to abide by that, just like any law,” Maloy said.

Reaction mixed

Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, described Wilson as “absolutely out of bounds.”

“When the Legislature finds out that the mayor is thumbing her nose at the intent of the Legislature, I think they will act,” he told KSL NewsRadio at the time of Wilson’s announcement.

Maloy’s bill passed the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee on a 7-3 vote. But it went no further.

On the demise of  HB271, Wilson on Friday said:

We had concerns with the bill that was being proposed and how it could limit the local control of both counties and cities to create a safe environment within their facilities. We can all agree that responsible gun ownership should include responsible buying and selling as well.

Prior to January 1, 2020, background checks were provided by licensed dealers at gun shows, but private sales were not subject to background checks. The operational change extended background checks to all sales.

I support the rights of lawful gun owners, but the risk of unlicensed dealers selling a firearm to someone who could not legally own one, was a risk we could no longer take in Salt Lake County.

No gun bills this year

Other gun bills shot down this session include:

House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, presented once again this year a bill to enact universal background checks on gun sales in Utah.

It met the same fate again this session: defeat.

As did Layton Republican Rep. Steve Handy’s bill, which amounted to a third try at a red-flag law. It would have allowed a family member or law enforcement to request a court remove a firearm(s) from someone who is a danger to themselves or others.

On the bill’s repeated failure, Handy said: “At this point, they’re [House Republicans] getting a lot of pushback from gun rights folks and that makes them nervous.”

On Live Mic, Maloy said he wanted to thank gun-rights supporters.

“We had a lot of good people coming up to fight against those bills and support the good bills and helping us in that fight,” Maloy said.

He also promised his bill (HB271) would be back next year.

“We will reintroduce it and a few others for next year,” he said.