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Utahns react to Pres. Biden’s call to ban assault weapons

(President Joe Biden speaks to members of the press on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 23, 2021, after stepping off Marine One. Credit: Patrick Semansky, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — The deadly mass shooting in Boulder has President Biden calling on lawmakers to ban assault weapons, and people on opposing sides of the debate seem to be no closer to agreeing whether it’s a good idea, or not. 

Nancy Farrar Halden with the Utah Gun Violence Prevention Center believes the president’s call to ban assault weapons is a very good thing.  She said the data is clear that a ban would lower the limit of mass shootings across the country, citing a similar ban in the 90s and saying another one would be effective in saving lives.

“During the assault weapons ban between 1994 and 2004 that we had for ten years, the gun massacres declined by 37% over the previous ten years,” she said.

After the ban expired, Farrar Halden said mass shootings skyrocketed. She said gun violence is a multi-faceted problem, and it may require a wide range of solutions. 

“It’s a problem that was created over a long period of time and it’s not going to go away overnight.  That’s for certain,” according to Farrar Halden.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee: gun control has racist roots, suppresses minorities

On the other side of the debate is Molly Davis with the Libertas Institute. She believes the president’s proposal is the wrong thing to do since there are already so many weapons out in the public, and trying to ban all of them isn’t going to work.

Davis said, “There is no good way to get those guns back in the hands of the government.”

She said buy-back programs would be extremely ineffective in states like Utah since no one would give them up voluntarily. 

“If it is possible, are we just taking the guns away from the responsible, good gun owners and keeping them in the hands of the bad gun owners?” Davis asks.

Utah’s black market gun problem

No matter what side of the political aisle you are on, federal prosecutors say Utah has a serious problem with illegal gun sales. Former US Attorney for Utah John Huber say the black market for weapons is extremely active in our state, with many felons and drug dealers buying all kinds of firearms.

Huber said, “It happens every day in Utah. There is a long line of [cases] out there, that we can’t even get to, of illegal transfers of firearms or attempts to purchase firearms illegally.”

He said investigators have seized a wide array of weapons from illegal sales, from cheap pistols to expensive high-powered rifles and even grenade launchers. Huber said even some legal private sales lead to problems since the average citizen doesn’t have the resources to conduct a background check on the person they’re selling to.

However, Huber also believes regulation made in haste might not be the best way to solve the issue.

“Kneejerk government regulation, more regulation is not always the answer,” Huber said. “These are deeper issues in American society that we need to confront and be honest with.”


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