This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
By Diane P. Stewart
for The Salt Lake Tribune
In 2011, Utah earned the distinction of becoming the first state to name an official gun. It's the Browning M1911, if you happened to be living under a rock during the recent legislative session. Utah is gun-friendly, and much has been done to ease the process of purchasing a weapon, obtaining a license to carry, and broaden places where gun owners may legally do so.
And yet, despite a clear and consistent lack of support from Utah voters, the Utah Legislature and Rep. Curt Oda continue to fight a one-sided war against fictional gun foes bent on banning guns entirely. It makes for great copy, but unfortunately for Utah voters bad governance in the real world, as we have seen recently in Oda's comments in response to the Brady Campaign.
The mission of the Brady Campaign is to free America from gun violence through the promotion of sensible gun laws. It is named after Jim Brady, press secretary for Ronald Reagan, who was shot in the head with a .22 Röhm RG-14 revolver during a 1981 assassination attempt. John Hinckley, Jr. would not have been able to purchase the weapon had background checks been mandatory at the time.
The Brady Campaign gave Utah, Arizona and Alaska gun laws their lowest possible score a zero. In response, Oda, a concealed weapons permit instructor, said, "I'm glad we got a zero from that group. I actually wish we would get a negative score from them like an F-minus-minus." Oda continued, "These anti-gun people are really anti-self defense ... . We continually push for safety and education. But the 'antis' don't want education. They just want an all-out ban. Their mission is to get rid of guns all together."
This is incorrect. The Brady Campaign and Alliance for a Better Utah simply advocate for common sense gun laws that keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally unstable, and away from schools and churches places where our children play and our families come together in worship.
In fact, we wonder who these "antis" are. It's not us, and it's not the Brady Campaign either. Oda seems to be the only one discussing such measures.
This is not the first time Oda has manufactured problems to further his cause. He ran a bill last session removing the 1,000-foot open-carry buffer zone around public schools, a move which 60 percent of Utahns oppose and just 36 percent support. And he has been the loudest voice in the Legislature for ensuring guns can be carried on public university campuses, despite the fact that only 29 percent of Utahns support such a measure.
The obvious question is why? These bills clearly do not have popular support, and yet they appear on the legislative agenda every year in response to imagined challenges to legal gun ownership that never materialize.
The Brady Campaign is not telling Oda, or any Utahn with a legally purchased firearm, to put them away. They are simply pointing out that 60 percent of the Utah voters favor a compromise between gun rights and gun safety.
They recognize that there are certain places where guns simply do not belong, and there is work still to be done to ensure that guns remain out of the hands of those who would use them for harm.
There is a common ground here. It's unfortunate that Oda does not seem to be interested in finding it, and even more unfortunate that the Legislature is following his lead.
Diane P. Stewart is a member of the board of directors of Alliance for a Better Utah. She lives in Salt Lake City.