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GRAHAM DOESN’T WANT GUNS IN ABUSIVE HANDS

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Should individuals who have a history of domestic violence be allowed to purchase guns?

Attorney General Jan Graham doesn't think so, and her office has drafted legislation that would prohibit individuals from buying firearms if they are the subject of a domestic violence court order."Our No. 1 priority is the protection of children and families from violence," Graham said, adding it doesn't make sense to sell weapons to someone who has been determined by a court to be violent.

Still, Graham admits anti-gun control sentiments are running high and the upcoming legislative session may not the best of times to attempt legislation some might interpret as restricting the ownership of guns.

"I would be very interested in any argument that such a person should be able to buy a gun if they have been found by a court to be likely to commit violence at home," she said.

There have been four Utah cases in the past year where abusive husbands killed their wives or ex-wives. In each case, a court had issued protective orders.

The legislation, Graham said, may not deter such homicides because violent people find many different ways to perpetrate their violence. But it would make it more difficult for abusive individuals to purchase a gun and commit a homicide in a moment of rage. The law, if passed, would only apply to those cases where a hearing has been held and a court has issued a protective order.

The prohibition on weapons purchases is one of six pieces of high-priority legislation being pushed by the Attorney General's office in the 1995 session. Other bills include:

- Legislation that will allow employers to conduct criminal background checks of prospective employees who work in the area of "care and custody" of children and the elderly. Those kinds of background checks are generally prohibited under current state privacy laws.

- Legislation that would require those charged with nonpayment of child support to prove they had good reason for not making child support payments. If passed, the law would place "the burden of proof on the defendant to show just cause why he did not pay child support," Graham said.

- Legislation that would allow all victims of rape to have their medical examinations paid out of the Victims Reparation Fund. Under current law, the victims fund pays for the examination only if the victim files charges. "That's not the way the system should work," Graham said. "They are still a victim even if they don't go forward with the agony of trying a criminal case."

- Legislation that would create a statewide data base to track prescription drug abuse. The data base would identify doctors who are prescribing drugs to people with substance abuse problems and individuals who go to several different doctors to feed their prescription pill addiction.

"We know from studies there is an epidemic in Utah of prescription drug abuse, and this (data base) would provide the means to identify those doctors who are contributing to the problem as well as the individuals who have a problem," Graham said. The legislation has the support of Utah's medical and law enforcement communities.

- Legislation that would make more equitable state laws allowing seizure of personal property in drug cases. Under current law, the possession of even small traces of illegal drugs can lead to the forfeiture of cars, homes and property.

"Some takings under the current law are unconscionable," said Jerry Jensen, the legislative liaison with the AG's office.

Jensen admits the law is the direct result of a practice in Roosevelt where police officers were stopping out-of-area cars, searching them for drugs and then confiscating the cars for even a hint of illegal contraband. The city then allowed the individuals to "buy back" their cars for several hundred dollars.

"There's no question the Roosevelt situation prompted this legislation," Jensen said.