Last week was a big week for gun laws at the legislature. On Wednesday, five bills were heard during House committee hearings. I attended the hearing for HB76 (this bill would change concealed carry law to allow for guns to be carried without a concealed carry permit) and HB114 (the Second Amendment Preservation Act). My main observation was that there was a lot of emotion and not enough rational thought behind these bills. This was especially evident in the statements made by the public and comments I heard from others in the crowd.
The House Judiciary Committee hearing was standing room only and everyone there seemed to be really passionate about the issues of gun safety and an individual’s right to have a firearm. It was great to see citizens so involved in the issue, but their passion could have been more tempered. During the hearing there was a lot of discussion of a right, but not much evaluation of the safety of the bills, especially HB76. What I found most interesting was the comments I heard around me. Whenever anyone spoke against the bill the people around me would react negatively. They would say the speaker was unpatriotic, or that they wanted to take away all their guns. Many people brought guns with them to the meeting; one individual even brought a rifle. Supporters of HB76 talked about how the right to bear arms was the most fundamental of rights. It was an emotionally charged meeting to say the least.
What got lost in all the passion about the 2nd Amendment was the merits of the bill. At this point I must give credit to Representatives Arent and King and many who spoke in opposition to HB76 who questioned the wisdom of allowing individuals to have a loaded weapon in public without the training and background check required to get a concealed weapons permit under current law. Unfortunately, HB76 passed with only two dissenting votes.
The committee hearing I attended last week is the perfect example of needing to have cooler heads prevail in all issues, but especially in one as important as gun safety. We cannot allow our emotion or passion to drive us when making policy decisions of this magnitude. Our legislators as well as citizens need to follow Governor Herbert’s advice when it comes to gun legislation. We need to act responsibly and carefully.
I am glad to say that at this point in the legislative session it does appear that cooler heads are prevailing. Yesterday, HB76 was held on the floor of the House after serious concerns were raised about the wisdom of the bill. HB114 was held in the Judiciary committee, and is not currently scheduled for another hearing. It seems reason is winning out, and we need to make sure that it continues to as the session progresses.