The fervor for gun control may be fading — expanding background checks fell short in Congress, while recent polls show new gun-law support dropping below 50 percent — but lawmakers in Utah are tightening their grip on bills aimed at easing gun restrictions and combating federal encroachment.
Nine months out, Republican legislators are reloading for January.
That means a sequel for HB76, the controversial “constitutional-carry” measure vetoed last month by Gov. Gary Herbert, who argued “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And there is more in the holster from Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, one of the House’s young guns, who wants to outlaw federal gun-law enforcement in Utah and restore gun-ownership rights for felons convicted of unrelated crimes.
“I’ll always keep my eye on the target — that is, where the federal government is overstepping its authority,” Greene says. “The only way we get our country back is if we re-establish federalism.”
Greene says he may dust off HB114, which would restrict federal agents from imposing firmer federal gun laws in Utah. It stalled over the winter, even after explosive language — making it a felony for feds to seize guns from Utahns — was stripped.
He’s equally passionate about restoration of Second Amendment rights for felons, provided there is no tie between the crime and firearm use.
“What sense does it make to deny somebody their Second Amendment rights for a conviction of financial fraud?” Greene asks. “There needs to be a provision to reinstate those rights — I’m exploring that. Government is treading into unconstitutional territory when they deny those rights, particularly for the rest of a person’s life.”
GOP lawmakers may be emboldened by the U.S. Senate, which spurned the White House’s attempt to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, while broadening background checks for gun buyers.