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Utah lawmakers aim to resurface gun rights measures

Utah lawmakers say two gun rights measures will be reintroduced during the 2014 session after failing to become law this year.

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, and Rep. Brian Green, R-Pleasant Grove, said bills to allow Utah adults to carry a hidden, unloaded gun without a permit and to declare Utah's authority to regulate firearms in the state will return next year.

But Christensen told The Salt Lake Tribune that the measure concerning hidden, unloaded guns will be voted on early in the session next year so lawmakers won't need a special session to override Gov. Gary Herbert's possible veto.

Last week, both houses of the Legislature failed to obtain the two-thirds vote needed to convene a special session to override Herbert's veto of the measure.

"We intend to bring it back again," Christensen told The Tribune. "It will easily carry a majority. We'll do it early in the session so if the governor wants to veto it again, he'll have to do it early in the session so we won't have to have a special session."

Some lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill opposed the special override session based on its estimated $30,000 cost. Two-thirds of both houses voted for the measure.

Herbert, a Republican, has said that existing laws on the issue work well and provide an important tool for law enforcement agencies. Dozens of mayors and police chiefs around Utah urged Herbert to veto the measure, as did the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

Currently, an individual must take a training course, pass a background check and obtain a concealed-weapons permit to carry a hidden firearm. Utahns can openly carry an unloaded weapon without a permit.

Greene said he's interested in reintroducing a bill to restrict federal agents from imposing tougher federal gun laws in Utah.

The measure moved forward after lawmakers watered down the original proposal, but it died in the Senate. The bill said that if a judge declares that a state gun law conflicts with a federal law, the state law will be supreme and officers cannot enforce it.

"I'll always keep my eye on the target — that is, where the federal government is overstepping its authority," Greene said, adding that he also supports a bill to restore Second Amendment rights for felons convicted of non-violent crimes.

Miriam Walkingshaw, co-founder of Utah Parents Against Gun Violence, said the effort to whittle away Utah's already lax gun laws is irresponsible. She said her group will fight the measures being pushed by a "small, loud minority dominating this discussion."

"It doesn't represent what the majority of Utah voters want," she said.