Guns, in all their forms and consequences, will be big in the 2013 Legislature.
Even with no gun bills yet being debated, their shadows are falling on lawmakers.
Wednesday, House Assistant Majority Whip Don Ipson, R-St. George, circled his HB28, Campus Safety Amendments, just because some representatives thought it might have something to do with banning guns on public university campuses.
It doesn’t, although there could be some questions of such.
The bill mainly says that a campus official can order someone off the campus if that person is acting in a way that could cause others on campus to believe their safety could be at risk.
And it provides for specific trespass rules to be applied, including Class B and Class A misdemeanors if the accused person keeps coming back on campus after being asked to leave and doing the same kind of stuff.
“This is not a gun bill and we have to clarify that” among House members, said Ipson.
One may argue that seeing someone carrying a gun on campus could make others fear for their safety.
But another bill that has been introduced this session deals with that issue, detailing that just having a gun doesn’t meet that standard.
Meanwhile, Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, told UtahPolicy that he’s not so sure that it’s advisable to group all the House gun bills together, once they are introduced early this session, and run them through a House committee and on the floor altogether.
Oda, a well-known gun rights advocate who teaches concealed weapons courses, said that he anticipates all gun bills will come through the Law Enforcement Committee, which he chairs.
Oda is also on the House Rules Committee, which assigns bills to committees for public hearings, or holds them to deny public hearings.
“I’m not so sure grouping them all together is a good idea,” said Oda.
UtahPolicy reported this week that GOP House leaders were talking about grouping all the gun bills so that they could be considered both in committee and on the floor at the same time.
It’s not unusual for leaders to move controversial bills on the same subject early in a session – say in the first two weeks or so – to get those matters taken care of.
Such groupings not only gets controversial issues out of the way early in a general session so legislators and the media can concentrate on other – perhaps more important – matters, like the budget.
Such early action also keeps controversial matters off the newspaper front page and TV news casts, not dragging coverage out over the 45-day session.
But passing bills early in the session requires Gov. Gary Herbert to act on them while lawmakers are still in session – the governor has 10 days to veto or sign a bill if it is passed to his desk before lawmakers adjourn.
That may be a good or bad thing, depending on the measure and the internal politics between the Republican governor and the GOP-controlled Legislature.
“I haven’t seen any gun bills hitting Rules yet,” said Oda. So there is still time for leaders and 2nd Amendment advocates to work out the timing and internal politics of dealing with guns and their use – always a sensitive topic in the Utah Legislature.