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Mitt Romney alone among Utah delegation on gun safety bill

State’s four Republican congressmen, GOP Sen. Mike Lee oppose legislation

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A Taran tactical combat master hand gun is displayed for sale on Thursday, June 23, 2022, in Hempstead, New York.

A Taran tactical combat master hand gun is displayed for sale on Thursday, June 23, 2022, in Hempstead, New York. The House on Friday easily cleared a bipartisan gun safety package, sending Congress’ first major response to nearly three decades of mass shootings to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Brittainy Newman, Associated Press

Utah’s four Republican congressmen voted against the bipartisan gun safety bill Friday, leaving Sen. Mitt Romney as the only member of the state’s federal delegation to support the package that now heads to the president’s desk.

The House passed the measure — Congress’ most significant response to mass shootings in nearly three decades — 234-193, with the vast majority of House Republicans opposing the bill. President Joe Biden is expected to quickly sign it into law.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act includes $13 billion in new spending for policy programs like mental health and school safety. It provides states money for red flag laws, cracks down on straw purchases of firearms, changes the process when someone ages 18 to 21 goes to buy a gun and closes the so-called boyfriend loophole.

Like other congressional Republicans, Utah’s House members contend the legislation would restrict Second Amendment rights. They also oppose federal dollars going for red flag laws in states.

“The Senate Gun Control bill unjustly jeopardizes the Second Amendment rights of every law-abiding citizen,” Rep. Chris Stewart said in a tweet.

Stewart said he would continue to champion mental health care and school safety.

“I believe we can accomplish these goals while respecting the Constitution. I will always stand for the Constitutional Rights of every American, which is why I voted no,” he said.

Rep. Blake Moore said he committed to not vote for any bills that could affect Second Amendment rights without fully vetting them.

He applauded negotiators in the Senate winning a hard-fought deal, but said there were no opportunities for collaboration and the bill did not go through the committee process in the House.

“I simply do not feel confident voting for it without fully discussing the consequences of provisions ... that could allow states to use federal funds to implement red flag laws without the specific assurance of full due process protections,” he said.

Moore said his vote was not a blanket disapproval of the legislation. He said he supports many of its provisions, including investing in mental health resources for Medicaid and CHIP recipients, expanding mental health programs in schools and ramping up criminal penalties and tools to investigate firearms traffickers

Rep. Burgess Owens said he opposed the bill because it uses taxpayer dollars to open the door to red flag laws, which carry serious constitutional threats to due process and other protections for law-abiding American citizens.

“I will always stand strong for the legal rights of all Utahns,” he said in a tweet.

Rep. John Curtis also voted against the legislation.

On Thursday, Romney supported the bill, while Sen. Mike Lee opposed it in the Senate.

Romney, who helped negotiate the package, said it provides for more mental health and security resources in our schools and improves background checks without infringing on Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.

He said it helps ensure that people in romantic relationships, where there’s been a conviction of domestic violence, are not able to carry out violence. It also provides support for states that implement crisis intervention measures — including red flag laws with sufficient due process, he said.

Lee described the bill as the “legislative equivalent of running through a congested intersection with our eyes closed” during Senate debate on the measure.

He said that he could support some parts of the bill, but its key provisions are fraught with problems. He said the proposal places overly broad and undefined restrictions on Second Amendment rights and “pays lip service” to due process.