Lawmakers might debate gun-rightsPosted: Friday January 25, 2002 9:33 AM
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Legislature, which is so pro-gun it lets people carry concealed weapons into the legislative chamber, might air its perennial debate over gun control before thousands of Olympic visitors this year.
Just two weeks before the Winter Olympics begin, a legislator introduced a bill in the Senate to change the concealed weapons law to remove a requirement that a permit seeker take a class on gun laws.
At least 40,000 Utah residents already have concealed weapons permits, and the Legislature -- mostly conservative, Republican and male -- fervently supports Second Amendment rights.
But even some pro-gun lawmakers worry about the bill.
"No one's a bigger gun advocate than me, but I'm very worried we'll start issuing concealed weapons permits on a carte blanche basis," Republican Sen. Bill Hickman said. "They ought to have some proficiency. They ought to know how to handle a gun and know which end a bullet comes out of."
State law says concealed weapons can only be banned from airports, courts, jails, mental health facilities and Olympic venues. Private homes and churches also can ban them, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has said.
The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Scott Jenkins, said an audit determined the classes were a joke. He isn't particularly worried about the attention his bill might get if lawmakers debate it around the Olympics.
"What's right is right and what's wrong is wrong," Jenkins said.
Exactly when the bill might be debated is unclear. The Legislature will be in session for the next few weeks but will break for the Olympics, which begin Feb. 8.
Two gun-control bills that were introduced before the 2002 Legislature opened this week and have already died in committees. One would have required background checks of buyers at gun shows; the other would have eliminated a law that prohibits cities from enacting gun ordinances.
"The people up here, the depth of their feeling about guns is incredible," said Rep. Scott Daniels, the Democrat who introduced the gun-control bills. "I think this particular legislature is so much more farther to the right than the general population."
The debate may capture the attention of Olympic visitors, he said.
"People in other parts of the world think it's odd Americans want to be armed all the time," Daniels said. "I think it's going to scare them. They're going to think every third person at the opening ceremony is carrying a gun."