Bill to take guns from severely mentally ill stalls in Utah State Legislature

SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill to remove firearms from people deemed to be severely mentally ill and risk to themselves and others has failed to pass out of a House committee.

Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, proposed House Bill 483 that would allow people to petition the courts for a protective order to remove firearms from someone deemed to be severely mentally ill. However, he faced pushback from the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee during a lengthy hearing on Monday.

"This to me is more of a gun confiscation effort than it is a public safety measure," said Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove.

Members of the committee questioned if the bill would truly be effective, and if there was data to back it up. Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, said the bill offered a "false sense of security," arguing that people who committed suicide with guns were using a borrowed firearm.

Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, questioned if other weapons were just as prevalent as guns.

"Firearms would be up there at the very, very highest," said Tammer Attalah with Intermountain Healthcare, speaking in favor of the bill.

"Do you have a study that would show that? Because I’ve looked at things that suggest it’s not nearly as high as knives for example?" Rep. Ivory said.

"That's not correct," Attalah said.

Rep. Handy had supporters on the committee. Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden, said he was in favor of the legislation and prodded his colleagues.

"Would it be fair to say the reason that might be hard to come up with (some data) is they’re not dead? Huh?" Rep. Pitcher said to nervous laughter from the committee.

Gun rights groups opposed the bill for going too far.

"It’s important not just to do something, it’s important to make sure we do the right thing," said Brian Judy of the National Rife Association, expressing concerns about trampling on due process rights.

Kindergarten teacher Stacy Lawrence said the bill "could protect students like mine."

The bill failed to pass on a 7-4 vote. Rep. Handy told FOX 13 he would not try to bring the bill back to the full House of Representatives to force a vote. Instead, he'd work on it over the next year and urged people to call their elected lawmakers.

"I think the legislators around here are going to hear from their constituents who say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, really? C’mon!'" he said.