SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – One Democratic lawmaker plans to introduce legislation in 2019 that he believes would make it harder for criminals to obtain firearms like the one used in the murder of University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey Monday.
Still, many gun rights advocates believe more legislation is not the answer.
Rep. Brian King (D-Salt Lake City) already proposed several bill files to be debated in the 2019 legislative session, which would require universal background checks and restricted firearms access to criminals.
One of his proposals, if passed, would require licensed arms dealers to be involved in private transactions.
King said while it is still unknown how Melvin Rowland, a convicted felon, obtained the gun used to kill Lauren McCluskey, it’s a question that demands an answer.
“If he got his gun through a private sale where there was no background check, that would suggest to me that we need to look harder at having background checks on private sales,” said King. “If he got that gun through a conventional means where he had a background check and the background check failed…we need to know that…and we need to tighten up the process of doing the background check,” King added.
But gun rights advocates are confident no such legislation would get off the ground, especially in Utah.
Currently in Utah it is illegal for a felon to buy, own, or use a firearm – but it’s a law the state does little to enforce. Private firearm sales are perfectly legal in the state as long as the buyer is over 18. No background checks are required in private sales, and the seller has no responsibility to verify that the buyer is of legal age or free from felony convictions. Firearms sales can take place on any online platform as long as the exchange happens in person.
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said criminals will always find ways to circumvent the law.
“We know the criminals aren’t going to do that, they will continue to obtain firearms in any way they can,” said Aposhian. “And they have never gone through a background check in the first place, why would we expect that one more law would help them see the light in their criminal endeavors and cause them to submit themselves to a background check?”
Aposhian said he would rather see citizens obtain firearm self-defense training.
He has the backing of Gov. Gary Herbert, who has said that Utah’s gun laws as they are written are sufficient.
Still, for King, it begs the question: How can the government keep guns out of the hands of criminals and domestic abusers?
It’s a debate he’s willing to have in 2019.
“We can tighten up the process by which we filter individuals who have a background of violence or a propensity to use weapons in an unlawful way to ensure that they don’t get access to those weapons in the future,” said King.