Sheriffs’ gun message ‘encourages violence’
Summit County Democratic Chair Glenn Wright is speaking out against a letter penned by Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds and signed by most Utah sheriffs.
"Some of what Edmunds is saying encourages radical culture which, in turn, encourages violence," Wright said. "It also stokes fear in people. People who feel this way have some innate fear that people or the government is out to get them. Our public officials should not be fostering that type of attitude. It’s destructive to our society and irresponsible."
Wright added that he is speaking as a citizen and not on behalf of the Summit County Democrats.
On Jan. 7, the Utah Sheriff’s Association sent a letter to President Barack Obama stating that "the citizenry must continue its ability to keep and bear arms," and that as sheriffs, they will "enforce the rights guaranteed to our citizens by the Constitution," even to the laying down their lives if necessary.
The letter further warned that federal officials will not be permitted to "descend upon our constituents and take from them what the Bill of Rights — in particular Amendment II — has given them."
Wright argued that there is no proposed legislation to confiscate anybody’s assault weapons.
"You just can’t buy new ones," he said. "And some have talked about doing a buy-back program, but that would be voluntary. Edmunds does not have the right to actively stop federal law enforcement from enforcing federal gun laws. That is nullification. That was decided in the Civil War. You take up arms against the government and the government will slap you down."
Wright added that the implied threat that Utah sheriffs may physically take action against the federal government is a dangerous one.
"It fuels the gun culture we have in the U.S. And part of the reason why it is so dangerous in the U.S. is because of the guns and the gun laws we have," he said.
Wright said the majority of gun owners are not the problem, but rather it is a small radical group who are "trying to obstruct reasonable measures to put restrictions on gun ownership."
"It creates a gun culture where everybody is ready to shoot someone else at the spur of the moment," he said. "And they constantly talk about the Second Amendment right to bear arms as one of the most important things in their lives. But that wasn’t the original intent of the Second Amendment."
The Second Amendment was intended to support the first draft of the militia, he explained.
"In 1791, when the amendment was ratified, we had virtually zero military, so the Second Amendment was there to bring the populace into play if we were attacked," he said.
In 2008, the Supreme Court expanded the law to provide "absolute right of gun ownership," with the stipulation that the government has the right to impose reasonable restrictions, Wright said.
"Obviously we don’t want anyone running around with tanks," he said. "So the question is, where do you draw the line? Congress has a perfect right to draw the line."
A bill, Utah H.B. 76, has been proposed by John Mathis, R-Vernal, in the Utah State Legislature this year, which would allow anyone over the age of 21 who can legally purchase and own a gun to do so without needing to obtain a concealed weapons permit.
If passed, Utah will become what is known as a "constitutional carry" state, along with Alaska, Vermont, Arizona and Wyoming.
"But if you don’t have combat experience, you don’t know what you’re going to do when blood starts flying," Wright said. "Things happen. People panic. Stuff goes wrong at times. And it’s more likely to go wrong when people have never experienced the panic of a fight. Physically, your brain locks down and you get fight or flight response and you don’t act rationally."
Another proposed gun bill, H.B. 268, sponsored by Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, would allow guns to be carried openly in public without it being considered disorderly conduct.
Utah is an open carry state, which means unloaded guns can be carried in public. But under current law, if someone feels threatened and calls police, the person carrying the gun may be cited for disorderly conduct.
Under H.B. 268, a person carrying a gun in public may only be cited for disorderly conduct if they behave in a violent or threatening manner, or otherwise cause "a reasonable person" to fear for safety.
"The otherwise lawful possession of a dangerous weapon, whether visible or concealed, without additional behavior, does not constitute a hazardous or physically offensive condition, threatening behavior, or a cause for public inconvenience annoyance or alarm," the bill reads.
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Two Midway residents debated for a seat at the Statehouse, with Mike Kohler espousing a brand of old-school conservatism and Meaghan Miller saying she’d represent young working families on Capitol Hill.