Proposed bill adds extra layer of caution when removing firearms from people who may be a danger to themselves or others

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Sen. Daniel Thatcher is cautioning against a knee-jerk reaction to his new gun bill, saying he’s just adding an extra layer of caution to an already-existing process to get firearms out of the hands of Utahns who are prohibited from possessing them.

Thatcher, R-West Valley City, says the most prevalent types of gun violence in Utah come from suicide and domestic violence. Utah law already allows for a spouse or a cohabitant to take guns out of the house and give them to law enforcement if they feel someone is a danger to themselves or others. That person can easily get their guns back after the police do an instant background check in order to make sure they’re not a restricted person. Thatcher’s SB87 requires police to check court data to make sure there are no pending actions that would bar the person from owning a firearm.

“This isn’t a situation where someone is mad at their roommate, so they can take their guns and make them jump through hoops to get them back,” says Thatcher. “What I’m asking is that we check to see if there’s a pending action, like a restraining order. Once the protective order goes into place, that person becomes a restricted individual, so we’re just asking law enforcement to check to see.”

Thatcher says his bill is not a so-called “red flag” bill like HB229, which is sponsored by Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton. Handy’s bill enables a family member or law enforcement to request that a court strip firearms from people who are thought to be an imminent risk to themselves or others. Handy’s “red flag” bill stalled in last year’s session, but he’s brought the measure back for another try this year. 

“I don’t see this as a red flag bill at all,” says Thatcher. “You can take the guns away and turn them over to law enforcement right now, and as long as a person is not a restricted person, we give them right back.”

Thatcher says his proposal will likely not apply more than a dozen times a year.