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Is back the way to go on gun law?
Lawmaker suggests using pre-'95 limit — but only for schools

House Minority Leader Dave Jones says Republican legislators are doing a pretty good imitation of the Moon Walk.

You know, that's the dance made famous by entertainer Michael Jackson, where he looks like he's walking forward, but he's really walking backward."We're not getting anywhere on a special session" on gun violence and school safety, Jones, D-Salt Lake, charged Monday.

But sometimes going backward is the right move, says House Majority Leader Kevin Garn.

Garn says one of several solutions to the guns-in-schools battle is just to return to the pre-1995 law on concealed weapons but have that restrictive law apply only in schools.

"Before we changed the law (to make carrying a concealed weapon a right, rather than a privilege), you had to prove to the state that you needed to carry a concealed weapon -- that your life was in danger for a specific reason. Then you could get a permit. The idea is just go back to that concerning schools," Garn, R-Layton, said Monday morning.

Before the concealed weapons law was liberalized, there were about 1,500 Utahns with concealed weapons permits. Since the law was changed so the state must issue a permit unless there's a good reason not to, about 29,000 Utahns now have concealed weapons permits.

If the Legislature returns, for schools, to the old law, state officials could approve a permit to carry a concealed weapon in schools or deny it. You could still get the current, more liberal, concealed-carry permit. But you couldn't take your concealed weapon into a public school, explained Garn.

In any case, Garn added, a growing number of GOP lawmakers just don't see the need for a special session on guns.

"Some of these options on school safety -- especially the idea that we put more law officers in schools -- would cost substantial money, the law officers (option) maybe $3 million to $5 million (a year).

"And it's not wise to make those kind of budget decisions in a special session. They should wait for a general session, to look at the overall budget. And we be- lieve Gov. Leavitt is seeing that now," Garn said.

Garn doesn't even see the need for a special session on the tobacco settlement, which Leavitt still favors. "We can just wait until January," Garn said.

Jones worries some GOP leaders appear to be purposely "stalling and manipulating the process," all with an eye toward not having a special legislative session on guns at all, Jones said in a news conference Monday morning on the Capitol steps.

Last week, Leavitt -- who has already said he planned to call a fall special session on tobacco money and guns -- said if some kind of consensus can't be found on guns, he doesn't see a divisive session accomplishing anything.

That comes after GOP House members, in a closed caucus, talked two weeks ago about not having a gun session at all.

"They're acting like (singer/actor) Michael Jackson. They're trying to tell us that they're moving forward in protecting citizens and schoolchildren, but they're really moving backwards," Jones said.

But last week House Speaker Marty Stephens, R-Farr West, said while he doesn't personally yet see the need for a special session on gun violence and school safety, the Legislature is moving forward with a 90-day study of the matter, even holding regional hearings across the state on what the 90-day study comes up with.

As reported by the Deseret News last week, Jones is upset that Sen. Terry Spencer, R-Layton, won't allow any gun-related bills sponsored by individual lawmakers to be heard in his Judiciary Interim Committee.

Jones said he's had three bills "ready for 30 days" that could be heard by a legislative committee and then be ready for the fall special session. But so far he hasn't been able to get on an agenda.

Stephens, R-Farr West, last week sent out a letter to the House chairmen of the three committees looking at the issues -- the Education, Law Enforcement and Judiciary committees. In the letter Stephens asks that any bill by any legislator dealing with gun violence and school safety at least be heard by the committee over the next several months.

But it's still unclear if time will be made for Jones' or any other Democrat or Republican's bills. Instead, suggests Spencer, issues should be discussed and any issue with majority support in his committee should be drafted into a bill.

Jones said he has bills drafted that would require background checks at gun shows for anyone buying a gun. Currently, state-run background checks are made only if the person buys from a licensed dealer at a gun show. Often, individuals and non-dealers show up at the events and sell guns. Thus violent criminals can buy guns at gun shows, Jones said.

Jones also has a bill that would deny gun sales to anyone adjudicated mentally ill or who had pleaded insanity in a criminal proceeding. His third bill would stop people with misdemeanor weapons violations from buying guns by placing them on the background check as well.

In addition to those bills, Jones said all guns should be outlawed in schools and churches.

The woman who shot up the Triad Center earlier this year, killing a young mother, and the man shot and killed by police after shootings in the LDS Church Family History Library, where two innocent people died, both had histories of mental illness and both had misdemeanor weapon violation convictions. Yet both legally bought guns.

"It's been 11 weeks since I first asked Gov. Leavitt to call a special session. It's been 70 days since (LDS Church) President (Gordon B.) Hinckley said something must be done about the mentally ill and guns. We've known the simple things we can do for months, but we're waiting and waiting and who knows if an October special session will even deal with guns," Jones said.

He added, "I pray that we don't have another tragic incident that could have been avoided."