SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers have advanced a bill that declares Utah alone is able to regulate firearms in the state.
The proposal is one of several high-profile firearms bills in the Legislature this year, and legislative attorneys and critics said it’s very likely a court will find the law unconstitutional if it passes.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, said the measure is an assertion of state’s rights and individual liberty, and he doesn’t believe it’s unconstitutional.
A House Committee approved the bill 7-2 Monday morning, with two Democrats voting against. It now goes to the full House for consideration.
The bill states that any employee or officer at the federal, state or local level, may not enforce any federal laws or regulations related to guns within Utah.
Similar legislation has been sprouting up in other states in response to President Barack Obama’s call for increased gun control after recent mass shootings.
Greene told lawmakers on Monday that states are “waking up” after years of encroaching federal regulations.
“States are beginning to push back,” Greene said. “There are 26 other states that in this 2013 legislative session have introduced a bill similar to mine.”
In January, Obama signed executive orders addressing mental health issues and providing authorities more training, among other provisions. Other proposals, which would need to be passed by Congress, call for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
The plan has attracted strong criticism from gun rights supporters.
Greene said his bill is necessary to push back against federal overreach and defend the U.S. Constitution. But such measures, which make it a state crime to enforce federal law, have been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Greene’s bill originally said that any federal officer who attempts to take guns away from Utah residents could be arrested by local law enforcement and charged with a felony. Lawmakers stripped that language from the bill two weeks ago after expressing concerns that it could lead to a chaotic situation, with federal and local law enforcement squaring off while an agent is confronting someone accused of having an illegal firearm.
An analysis by legislative attorneys still notes that the bill will likely be found unconstitutional.
Greene said his bill aligns with Utah’s constitution, which says the Legislature can regulate firearms in the state, while Second Amendment reads as a “blanket prohibition” on federal firearm regulations.
Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, disagreed and said the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the federal government can regulate guns and said he won’t vote for a bill that legislative attorneys say would very likely be found unconstitutional.
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