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Utah Legislature: 'Flashing' of guns has broad support

SALT LAKE CITY — As gun rights bills flow through the Legislature, a new poll shows Utahns support gun owners displaying their weapons if they feel threatened.

Sixty-five percent of respondents favor HB78, according to a Deseret News/KSL-TV poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates, while 30 percent oppose the idea. The poll has a margin of error of 5 percent.

The survey of 410 Utahns also revealed that more educated and wealthier respondents were less likely to support the proposal.

Mirroring legislative debates, 70 percent of Republicans favored the bill while 56 percent of Democrats indicated support.

HB78, which is waiting for Senate approval, would allow concealed weapon permit holders to "flash" their gun or tell someone that they are carrying a weapon.

Last week the bill's sponsor, Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, said he is pleased with the gun rights legislation this session.

"I always try to work to protect Second Amendment rights, and this year things have gone well," he said.

The current HB78 is a toned-down version of the original proposal, which caused controversy with its broad language.

When introduced, the legislation would have allowed a gun owner to openly carry a gun and, in self-defense, draw the weapon and threaten "deadly force."

Supporters said the bill simply clarified existing rights, but in the end, the most controversial language was removed.

Gun rights advocates as well as state prosecutors have hailed the proposal as a much-needed clarification.

Sandstrom has also introduced legislation that would offer businesses immunity from litigation if there were a shooting on their property, as well as a bill that would require hotels to allow customers to bring guns into their rooms.

Support for gun rights in Utah may come as no surprise, as a Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence report ranks Utah's gun laws as the loosest in the nation.

According to a press release from the gun-control advocacy group, Utah is the first state to ever score a "0" in its analysis of state laws.

For Sandstrom, the proposal marks a step toward reducing gun violence in the state.

"This gives people another option where they don't have to actually fire their gun to defend themselves," he said.