In Utah, gun laws already could be described as lenient. That isn’t keeping state lawmakers from considering ways to make them ridiculously lenient, just to teach President Obama a lesson.
If you venture into JC Penney with a rifle slung over your shoulder, a sidearm on your right hip and extra ammunition, as happened last year in Utah, how is everyone else supposed to distinguish you from some nut-job who might intend to commit mass murder?
Likewise, if you carry a black semi-automatic rifle into a legislative committee hearing, or if you’re 18 and carrying a clearly visible sidearm in the same hearing, how is everyone supposed to know your intent?
Around these parts, it’s a blurry line, but it may soon get blurrier.
I support the Second Amendment. I understand the reasoning behind giving people the right to bear arms, whether for self-defense or for hunting. (I’m a little fuzzier on the concept of armed citizens keeping the government from usurping our rights. We have a Constitution and three branches of government to protect those and, in any event, the government has an army. But that’s another discussion for another day.)
I get that people with concealed weapons permits can save lives. That happened last April in Salt Lake City when some guy started stabbing people at random while babbling something about, “You killed my people.” A regular guy with a gun put an end to that peacefully, forcing the knife guy to drop his weapon until police showed up.
Anyone who opposes the right to a concealed carry permit has to confront situations like these and explain how disarming everyone would be a good thing.
But my support for the Second Amendment begins to waver when I see people doing reckless things with that freedom.
Look at the photo from the legislative hearing. Why would you make such a visible display of a firearm at such a place? Was it really just to demonstrate that guns are not scary, or was it a not-so-subtle form of intimidation?
How does that belong in a chamber where ideas are supposed to be debated on their merits and proposed laws drafted? Do these people expect to gain public support by such a display?
Getting back to my original question, one of the ways to distinguish the nut-jobs from the responsible gun owners is to require a permit for people to carry a concealed weapon, and to make people demonstrate the ability to correctly load and fire that weapon as part of the permitting process.
Another way is to make it illegal to openly carry weapons in a provocative or disruptive way, such as by carrying several of them, along with ammunition, into a shopping mall in an age when mass shooting rampages frequent daily news reports.
But in an extreme over-reaction to President Obama’s drive for tougher gun laws, Utah lawmakers are considering HB76, which would remove the need for any permit at all to carry a concealed weapon, provided the person is at least 21 and otherwise legally able to possess a weapon.
This provision would be tacked onto the end of a law that details how it is illegal to carry weapons on the premises of any public or private school. If it passes, just about anyone over 21 would get a King’s X on those restrictions.
Lawmakers also are considering HB268, which says, “The mere carrying or possession of a holstered or encased firearm, whether visible or concealed, without additional behavior or circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe the holstered or encased firearm was carried or possessed unlawfully or with criminal intent, does not constitute a violation of this section.”
The key there is what a “reasonable person” would believe. I think a reasonable shopper at JC Penney would think someone loaded to the teeth is disruptive. Clearly, many of the people at Wednesday’s hearing would think otherwise.
Another bill, HB114, would let sheriffs arrest federal agents who want to confiscate the guns of Utahns.
That one can’t even seriously be considered a waste of money, because it would be thrown out of court so fast few legal fees would accrue.
Obama is not going to succeed with even an assault weapons ban. The Republican-led House won’t stand for it. Utah looks absolutely foolish tilting at this windmill.
The state’s gun laws are not so strict that people are demanding they be loosened. Nor is there a discernible problem these laws would fix — except for stopping people from bringing an arsenal with them on a shopping trip.
Or perhaps keeping them from packing heat at a legislative hearing.