U.S. Senate hopefuls Rep. Wayne Owens and Bob Bennett locked horns over wilderness and gun control at their first meeting since winning their respective primaries.
Republican Bennett opposes proposals to restrict gun sales, and he wants no more than 1.9 million acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management land set aside as federally protected wilderness.Democrat Owens supports a waiting period for the purchase of handguns, and he proposes at least 5.4 million acres in BLM land be considered for wilderness designation.
On Friday, they fielded questions during a debate in Salt Lake City sponsored by the Utah League of Cities and Towns.
Bennett said a waiting period on handgun purchases won't reduce crime and said he believes the Founding Fathers "intended individuals to own weapons in an unrestricted fashion."
Owens said he voted for the Brady Bill, named for James Brady, former press secretary to President Ronald Reagan who was shot and critically injured during a 1981 assassination attempt.
Initially, the measure called for a seven-day waiting period for handgun sales. The current measure calls for a waiting time of five days.
"Police chiefs pleaded for the seven-day wait," Owens said. "This is not gun control; it's crime control."
Bennett said wilderness designation locks out economic growth. "Tourists aren't interested if they can't get to an area in their Jeep Cherokee," he said.
He supports a BLM proposal calling for no more than 1.9 million acres of public land in central and southern Utah to be set aside for wilderness. Owens has filed a bill asking Congress to set aside 5.4 million acres.