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Legislative committe shoots down two gun bills

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A legislative committee Tuesday killed two gun bills sponsored by Rep. Scott Daniels.

For two years Daniels, D-Salt Lake, has carried a bill that would require all buyers of guns at gun shows to go through state background checks.

Under current law, only registered gun dealers must run a potential buyer through the state's criminal identification system to see if they are a felon, mentally ill, under age or for some other reason are denied the right to buy a gun.

A felon could be denied a gun purchase at a licensed dealer's booth and walk across the aisle and buy a gun from a private dealer with no background check.

Maura Carabello of Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah said that makes no sense. The Bureau of Arson, Tobacco and Firearms says guns bought in gun shows from private sellers were the second-highest source of illegal firearms in the nation.

"It won't solve" the problem of criminals getting guns, but it's a step in the right direction, said Daniels.

But members of the Judiciary Interim Committee killed the bill, as several said the proposal would only hassle law-abiding Utahns who have a constitutional right to bear arms.

The committee also killed a bill that would have repealed the law that gives the Legislature sole authority to enact gun laws.

In the mid-1990s, in a bill that loosened the state's restrictions on citizens getting concealed weapons permits, the Legislature said it alone could make gun law in the state.

Daniels' bill would have repealed that exclusive language, and thus allow counties, cities, public universities and other entities to set up gun control restrictions within their boundaries.

"This is a terrible idea," said Sen. Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, of Daniels' bill. "We should table it now."

But under special rules set up for these two weeks of legislative hearings, an interim committee can't table a bill, said committee co-chairman Rep. Glenn Way, "Even though I agree" the bill should be killed.

Instead, the committee sent it to the House Rules Committee with the recommendation that it not be heard again.

Daniels, D-Salt Lake, said he was concerned when he heard last summer that the small southern Utah town of Virgin couldn't adopt an ordinance that required all town residents own a gun. Daniels notified Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who sent town leaders a letter saying their mandatory gun law violated state law, since only the Legislature could make gun law.

The town council has since rescinded the ordinance. But Daniels said Virgin should be able to deal with such issues itself.

But gun-rights advocates said Daniels' bill was a screen. The Democrat doesn't want mandatory gun ownership, they said, he wants to let Salt Lake City and other entities to pass even stricter gun control laws than the Legislature would.