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Rolly: Chaffetz's town-hall protesters have no voice. What's the NRA's excuse?

Published February 13, 2017 10:28 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Several commentaries have suggested that the hostile crowd at Rep. Jason Chaffetz's town hall meeting last week defeated its own purpose and made Chaffetz a martyr by chanting slogans and interrupting his answers to questions.

That may be true, although Chaffetz did get a taste of his own medicine, given the way he has treated witnesses testifying before his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

I would argue that the crowd was acting out of frustration since the positions attendees voiced at the meeting have been ignored or rebuffed by Utah's all-Republican congressional delegation and the state Legislature for years.

These folks are angry because they have no voice. That was taken away from them long ago by the Legislature through redistricting. Utah used to have one fairly reliable Democratic U.S. House district, and its boundaries are where most of the protesters at the town hall reside. That gave them at least someone who might respond to their concerns.

But gerrymandering took that little ray of hope away, pushing populations that tend to vote Democrat into areas dominated by Republicans.

So give that crowd a pass if it seemed rude.

There is another group that is currently shooting itself in the foot (pun intended) at the Utah Legislature, and that is the National Rifle Association and its affiliated gun-rights groups in the state.

While the town-hall crowd feels disenfranchised, the NRA expects to get everything it wants from the Second Amendment-friendly Legislature and the equally amicable Gov. Gary Herbert.

For that reason, it could fail to reach its lobbying goals this year in a state where it usually wins easily.

The NRA won't budge on a proposed compromise that would allow concealed-weapons holders to carry guns without having to get a permit but tie that privilege to restrictions and enhanced punishments if the gun owner has a habit of beating up a spouse or partner.

Apparently, the gun-rights groups don't want a little thing like domestic violence interfering with a God-fearing American's right to carry a gun without restrictions.

The NRA hurt its cause in recent days when its lobbyists threatened legislators with political defeat if they don't pass a permitless-carry law without the domestic-violence addendum.

The response: One senator, a card-carrying, dues-paying member of the NRA, threw the lobbyist out of his office.

The bill in question is HB237, sponsored by Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, a Utah Highway Patrol lieutenant.

His bill pretty much mirrors federal law by preventing a person from possessing a firearm if that person has a protective order against him or her. It requires someone convicted of domestic violence to surrender his or her weapon within 72 hours and would elevate the crime of committing a domestic-violence offense with a gun to a class A misdemeanor. It also would require gun sellers to notify law enforcement when someone prohibited from having a firearm due to domestic violence tries to buy one.

Besides the political threats coming from the NRA lobbyist, legislators have been inundated with what appears to be a form letter from NRA supporters, demanding that they pass a permitless-carry bill without the domestic-violence provisions.

Herbert, who has a strong record supporting gun-rights laws, vetoed a permitless-carry bill last year. He argued that the permit requirement for being able to carry a concealed weapon has worked well to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them.

Perry has said he tied his permitless-carry provisions to domestic-violence restrictions to make it more attractive to the governor.

If Utah passed a permitless-carry law, it would join just 11 other states that have such unrestricted privileges for carrying a concealed weapon.

But that's not enough for the NRA. Its refusal to accept 100 percent of what it wants already is offending lawmakers and could push the organization that has received considerable access and deference from legislators back to the undesirables category with the anti-Chaffetz crowd that never had a chance to be heard in the first place.

Who's the boss? • A crowd of Republicans burst into laughter during the opening prayer at the Salt Lake County Lincoln Day dinner Saturday at the Little America.

Pastor Rob Bruendl of the United Methodist Church in Kearns was blessing all the elected officeholders during the invocation when he asked for a special blessing for the state's most powerful leader: "The governor's wife."

In another oddity, the opening keynote speaker wasn't even a current Republican. It was former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who was the Libertarian Party's vice presidential candidate last year. —






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