A controversial bill that would make it a felony for anyone to enforce federal gun regulations in the state has drawn mixed reactions in Summit County. H.B. 114, The Second Amendment Preservation Act, sponsored by Brian Green, R-Pleasant Grove, received its first reading in the House Rules Committee on Wednesday.
But, while he is skeptical about some of the Obama administration's new gun control proposals, Roger Armstrong, a cofounder of the Park City Gun Club and newly elected member of the Summit County Council, says the proposed bill goes too far.
The Park City Gun Club has seen a "huge" surge in sales of guns and ammunitions, as well as in training classes, since President Barack Obama was elected and again after the Connecticut school shooting, according to Armstrong.
"And it's not just us," he said. "Our main distributors are sold out as well. It's very difficult to replenish our supply of firearms because of the lack of supplies in the system. And it's not just guns; it's ammunition, as well."
As a gun dealer, sales at the Gun Club are already tightly regulated, he said.
If someone wants to purchase a gun from the Gun Club, they are required to fill out a document with personal information. The document is faxed to the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification, which determines if the individual is allowed to purchase a gun.
"But right now, that law just applies to gun owners and gun dealers," Armstrong said. "In a private party transaction, you are not obligated to do the same thing.
While it is illegal for that individual to sell to someone who cannot own a gun, they won't necessarily have the ability to check whether the buyer can or not.
"So if everyone had to go through the same process as a gun dealer, it would close that loophole to some degree," he said.
However, Armstrong said, there are many pieces to the puzzle.
"Sadly, whenever you have a tragedy of that magnitude, psychologically people want two things: first, they want to know why it happened," he said. "They want some explanation for it, because we don't like randomness and tragedy. We need to understand it so we can manage it and avoid it from happening again."
Second: people want to fix the problem, he said.
"They start reaching for the means to fix it, and sometimes it goes too far," he added. "Sometimes bad things happen. That doesn't mean we shouldn't enact laws that actually do address the problem, but I think we need to use some care in doing that. If the notion is that the gun control proposals will fix the problem, and that if those are imposed we'll never have a massacre like the one in Connecticut again, that's probably not the case."
Armstrong argues that H.B. 114 is probably unconstitutional because it would violate the Constitution's supremacy clause.
Kathy Meyer, cofounder of the newly organized group, Summit County Voters for Sensible Gun Legislation, called the bill "a waste of time."
"It's posturing," she said. "It's preempting what might or might not happen with gun legislation from the federal government. If the federal government passed a ban on assault weapons and we say we're not going to enforce it, to me, that's radical. And it doesn't make me feel safe. I think it says to people that they are above the law. I think it gives the wrong message. Where the rest of the nation is moving forward on this issue and trying to close loopholes, we're moving backwards."
Meyer also argued that the bill reflects negatively on Utah.
"It's not good economically for Utah to be in the news like this about taking such a radical stance when we're such a tourist place," she said. "I think our state legislators should be spending time on things like education, cleaning up the air and things that matter now."
Meyer recently started the group to disseminate information concerning local, state and national gun control issues.
"But it's not telling people where to stand. We have Republicans, Democrats and Independents. We're not a political group and we don't want to be," she said.
Residents interested in joining Summit County Voters for Sensible Gun Legislation are invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org .