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Utah House OKs plan to provide 'safe harbor' for guns

Published February 26, 2013 8:35 pm

Gun violence • Sponsor says bill concept stems from Sandy Hook tragedy.
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People under emotional distress would be able to store their guns at a local police station for 60 days during a cooling off period under a bill passed Tuesday by the Utah House of Representatives.

Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, said HB121 was triggered by thoughts while watching a "Frontline" episode about Adam Lanza, the shooter who killed 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary School and also shot his mother at their shared home before killing himself.

He said he was struck by the idea that if the guns hadn't been in the home, the tragedy might've been averted.

"Now I don't know if she thought this, but could she possibly have thought, 'I wonder if I should get the guns out of the house," Pitcher said. "Maybe she thought that. Maybe she didn't. I don't even know if she had a gun safe. But the important thing here is that this takes no rights [away]. I'm a strong believer in the Second Amendment, but it gives the person who needs this the ability to have that gun away from the house for a short period of time."

The measure passed 44-28 with support across party lines.

Opponents of the measure centered their fire on possible cost burden to local police, the timing of the measure and how long it might be needed to be on the books.

"I feel so many of these things are happening because the emotions are running high across the United States and in the state of Utah," Rep. Rich Cunningham, R-South Jordan, said. "Would there be a calmer moment where we wouldn't need this in place?"

And Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, worried so-called "hunting widows" might use such a law in a nefarious way and voted against the measure.

"I'd hate to see this used as a tool by a spouse," he said to initial chuckles on the House floor. "I know we joke about this, but I've had friends go through divorces over hunting. It sounds comical, but I see it as a real potential threat."

But Rep. Richard Greenwood said it would be a helpful tool for police as a preventative measure to possibly stave off potential crimes.

The Roy Republican, who works in law enforcement, said the duty of police is "to protect and serve."

"I think this falls under the category of protecting the citizens," Greenwood said. "I think it's the responsibility of law enforcement to be proactive and not just reactive."

The bill now goes to the Senate.


Twitter: @davemontero




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