By Abigail Norton
Capital West News
SALT LAKE CITY – Legislators have been debating their 2nd Amendment rights this session with issues ranging from gun education to the use of crossbows. Here is the rundown on all of the weapons-related bills to come out of the 2015 Utah Legislative Session.
HB300, sponsored by Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, would clarify language regarding firearms and dangerous weapons.
A new amendment updates Utah’s current statute regarding firearm and dangerous weapons by complying with the decision in last October’s Salt Lake City V. Miles case. The bill would make it so that objects cannot be considered a concealed or deadly weapon until someone has intent to use it as a weapon or it is part of a crime.
Wade Miles, a homeless man at the time, had a pocket-knife wrapped in a jacket which was lying in a shopping cart. At the trial, Miles’ supervisor testified Miles said he would “shoot and kill” him “if” he had a firearm in his possession.
The Utah Supreme Court found that the current statute on weapons did not clearly establish what was a dangerous weapon. In the end, Miles’ intended use of the pocketknife he was in possession of was enough to convict him.
“Under our [current] statute a dangerous weapon only becomes a dangerous weapon with the way it was used,” said Greene. “Amendment number two [in HB300] addresses a concern that we may be creating a loop hole that people can run around with objects they intend to use as weapons.”
The court used four factors in determining whether the pocket knife in Miles’ was a dangerous weapon.
- the character of the instrument
- the character of the wound produced
- the manner in which the instrument was used
- the other lawful purposes for which the instrument may be used.
HB350, sponsored by Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, will reduce the penalty for carrying a concealed weapon on public transportation from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Currently it is illegal to carry a weapon on or near public transportation and their stops. Under the bill, this crime will carry a lighter penalty. Individuals with concealed carry weapons permits are free to have a concealed weapon on public transportation and are not included in the bill.
Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, expressed concern about the bill’s purpose. Thurston emphasized that currently possessing and concealing a weapon on public transportation is considered a felony, something he thinks needs to change. The bill would lessen a penalty that Thurston currently feels, “just goes too far.”
UTA spokesperson Remi Barron said in an email that UTA is neutral on the legislation. “Our system is one of the safest in the nation and we haven’t had any problems with weapons violations,” wrote Barron. “We don’t expect that to change.”
Monica Bellenger, co-founder of Utah Parents Against Gun Violence, said in an email statement that, “There are just some places within the larger community where guns are not appropriate.”
Contributors: Chris Larson, Blakely Gull, Maren McInnes