SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) - For the third time, Utah Representative Steven Handy will try to push a “Red Flag” bill for Utah, in an effort to do something to prevent a mass shooting here.
Officially, the proposed law is called Extreme Risk Protective Order, House Bill 209.
Handy, a Republican, will have to do a lot of convincing of fellow Republicans, in order for the bill to get consideration. Last year, the bill didn’t get a hearing at all. After the shootings in El Paso and Dayton over the weekend, Handy said he felt sick.
“I thought Is it going to take something terrible like this happening in Utah before we reasonably get around the table and say, ‘you know what? This ought to be something we should consider, ‘ “ he said.
The Red Flag bill has become law in about 15 other states. If passed in Utah, it would allow the family member of someone who is at risk of shooting himself or others, to seek an emergency order from a civil court judge, in order to temporarily take that person’s guns.
“They would be under a temporary restriction until they go themselves in a better place,” he said.
The Red Flag bill is a hard sell to lawmakers who are concerned about violating someone’s gun rights.
Handy, a gun owner, said the law has not been overturned – because of constitutional concerns – in any of the state’s where it has passed. Rep. Lee Perry is among the Utah Republicans who are skeptical of a Red Flag law.
“I don’t know that a Red Flag law would have caught either of the incidents in Dayton or El Paso,” he said.
Perry said Utah already has a law that would remove a person’s weapons if he were thought to be a danger.
But while House Bill 152 - Voluntary Commitment of a Firearm Amendments - would allow a family member to call the police to remove the weapons of a dangerous family member, the dangerous person goes to the police and could request the weapons and get them back. There’s no judge involved.
Perry worries people could misuse the Red Flag law to be “vindictive”.
“A family member makes a claim against you, a weapon is taken away, and now you have to prove you are not crazy or have a mental illness,” he said.
Perry said Utah should not rush to make laws that may not solve the problem of mass shootings and possibly infringe on people’s gun rights. He’d like to see the study on the issue. To him, it’s important that many mass shootings happen in “gun-free” zones.
“They don’t pick targets where they can get fired upon,” he said.
Representative Elizabeth Weight, a Democrat, has tried to push for laws that punish people who don’t safely store their guns.
She said the idea of asking people to use guns safely, is no longer useful. She added there is a big imbalance when it comes to gun violence and legislation. To her, more mass shootings require the need for more laws to prevent them.
She supports the Red Flag law.
“We should not have to go to any place and feel like any minute, someone might come in within an assault rifle and start shooting,” she said.