Among the several bills proposing to deal with gun control — for and against — in the Utah legislative session, three that seek to strengthen gun control were either killed or put on hold.
Gun control has become a hot-topic issue in the last few years, with lawmakers splitting along party lines. Those on Capitol Hill this week did the same: wearing red shirts to defend what they call their “God-given” second amendment rights, and others wearing blue shirts to push for increased gun control.
Lawmakers are also facing pressure to adjust the tax budget for the state, coming up quickly on the deadline. There are only seven days left in the legislative session, which is causing a faster pace in the legislature.
Lawmakers reject three bills to increase gun control
In the last few weeks, three guns in particular were either killed or put on hold by both Republicans and Democrats in the legislature. One looking to require universal background checks, another to criminalize irresponsible storage of guns and a bill that would create liability for people who give or sell firearms to someone who later uses it to harm someone.
All three bills were largely support by anti-domestic abuse and suicide prevention groups. However, they were opposed by gun lobbyists and gun rights supporters.
The bill that would require universal background checks aims to close loopholes that allow some people to avoid these checks when purchasing a firearm. Despite a lengthy public hearing regarding the bill, there was no debate and the committee killed the bill after a party-line vote.
The second bill that attempts to criminalize irresponsible storage aims to prevent gun suicide, which is the most common method of suicide in Utah. Advocates say it would also prevent the death of young children.
However, opponents argue the same logic could be use to criminalize parents who don’t lock up their chemicals — which is the most common form of accidental death. The bill was voted to be put on hold.
The final bill — creating liability for people who give or sell firearms to someone who may harm others or damage property — was also put on hold.
The legislation is inspired by a similar bill proposed last year. Called “Lauren’s Law,” it was named after University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey who was killed by an ex-boyfriend in 2018.
Lawmakers race to find budget solution… and fast
With only a week and a half left in the 45-day legislative session, lawmakers are scrambling to frame a tax budget plan. Not only do lawmakers not know how to divvy up funds, some are worried about whether tax cuts are possible this year because of potential economic weaknesses.
These weaknesses, they fear, will come from the coronavirus outbreak spreading across the globe. Gov. Gary Herbert compared the economic fallout to the aftermath of 9/11 — noting there is a low chance of any tax cuts this year.
Herbert said there is a structural imbalance in the tax budget that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Lawmakers previously tried to address this issue with a tax reform bill that passed during a special session in December 2019.
This reform would have decreased income taxes while increasing taxes on food, gas and some services. However, Utahns organized a movement signing a tax referendum, causing the lawmakers to repeal the tax reform at the beginning of the session.
Despite the uncertainty, lawmakers said tax cuts aren’t completely off the table. However, no decisions have been made.