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Utah lawmaker eyes DUI change so drinkers can fire gun in defense

Utah lawmaker eyes DUI change so drinkers can fire gun in defense (Photo: KUTV)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A lawmaker who led Utah's adoption of the strictest DUI threshold in the country said he wants to change the law next year to allow someone to fire a gun in self-defense even if their blood-alcohol level is above the new 0.05 limit.

Utah law now prohibits someone from carrying a dangerous weapon if their blood alcohol is above the legal limit, but Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, said that even if someone's been drinking they have a right to defend themselves.

Critics argue that if a person is considered intoxicated at 0.05 percent, they shouldn't be allowed to fire a gun.

"If they can't drive a car, they certainly can't make a decision on whether it's self-defense or not," said Michele Corigliano, executive director Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association.

The strict new DUI threshold taking effect in late 2018 has already come under fire by hospitality and ski industry representatives who say it could target responsible drinkers after one alcoholic beverage.

Proponents of the 0.05 limit, including the National Transportation Safety Board, say people start to become impaired with a first drink and shouldn't be driving, and the lower limit will discourage people from thinking they can drink up to a point and drive safely.

At a blood-alcohol content of 0.05 percent, a driver may have trouble steering and have a harder time coordinating, tracking moving objects and responding to emergencies, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The new law means a 160-pound man could be over the 0.05 limit after two drinks, while a 120-pound woman could exceed it after a single drink, according to data from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

However, a number of factors, including how much a person has had to eat and how fast they're drinking, can affect their blood alcohol levels.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed the law this year despite the protests, but said he would call lawmakers into a special session to address unintended consequences and consider a tiered punishment.

But after lawmakers couldn't come to an agreement on any changes, Herbert decided against calling them into a special session to change the law.

Thurston said he's planning a handful of tweaks, including the exemption for using a weapon in self-defense, the Deseret News reported.

Thurston said he's also considering changes to the law addressing provisional licenses, liability for establishments that serve alcohol and restrictions for those with new licenses.

Corigliano said the plan to allow "self-defense" for drinkers creates an exemption for "certain special interest groups." She said her restaurant association would approve of a tiered punishment system making it a misdemeanor crime instead of a DUI to have a blood alcohol level between 0.05 percent and 0.08 percent.

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