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The Utah House rejected a bill Thursday that would have required hotels to allow guests to bring guns into their rooms, arguing that it would restrict the hotel owners' property rights.
HB223, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, argued his bill was an effort to protect a person's constitutional right to carry a firearm. It also would have protected a hotelier from liability for incidents involving the gun.
But a group of conservative Republicans arguing that Sandstrom's proposal infringes on the rights of the hotel owners joined Democrats in defeating the bill 44-28.
"For the life of me, I can't figure out the kind of mental gymnastics we have to go through to get to the point where we say that's OK," said Rep. David Butterfield, R-Logan. "This is Big Brother-style government trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist."
Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, who owns a hotel, said he has gun owners in his hotel all the time and doesn't see a problem with the current system.
"There's really not an issue here," he said. "If there's ever been a need to let a bill die because there really isn't a direction or purpose for it, this would be it."
Sandstrom argued that the hotel owner transfers property rights to the guest as part of the contract, and his bill is actually ensuring the renter retains those rights. Hotels, he argued, are not allowed to discriminate based on race, color or gender, so they shouldn't be allowed to do so against gun owners.
"This bill is not really about guns. It's about protecting rights," he said. "If you hold private property rights so dear, which I do, then you must vote for this bill."
It was a rare defeat for the powerful gun interests at the Utah Legislature. Sandstrom's bill was a priority for the Gun Owners of Utah, the Utah Shooting Sports Council and the National Rifle Association.
A bill nearly identical to Sandstrom's passed the House unanimously in 2007, but it was not voted on by the Senate. A number of House members who had voted for that bill changed their votes Thursday.
"What has changed?" Sandstrom asked. "I don't know."