The issues of guns and gun rights is nothing new on Capitol Hill. This year, it appears that the issue might take a backseat to other issues such as air pollution and same-sex marriage, but Representative Paul Ray (Republican – Clearfield) has proposed HB 276 – Disorderly Conduct Amendments, ensuring that there will be some discussion of firearms on the hill.
The bill is actually a hangover from last years legislative session, when lawmakers hotly debated gun policy. During that time, several individuals on both sides of the gun debate were making loud statements as to why their side was the best. One individual, Joseph Kelly, carried an unloaded AR-15 rifle and a loaded Glock 19C into a Riverdale JC Penny to show that guns are not dangerous when in the hands of law abiding citizens. Kelly’s actions came at a time when lawmakers were hotly debating if citizens should be allowed to carry concealed weapons without the need of a permit – and the public made an immediate connection.
Ray’s bill is a direct result of Kelly’s action and proposes an interesting question: is the free and open display of a holstered gun enough to reach the level of disorderly conduct?
Ray, in HB 276, argues that no, if a citizen is not engaged in any particular activity worthy of being classified as disorderly conduct, the mere display of a holstered gun is not a crime and police officers have no need to engage the individual. As the bill states “[t]he mere carrying or possession of a holstered or encased firearm, whether visible or concealed… does not constitute a violation [of disorderly conduct laws].”
Under HB 276, Kelly would have been charged with disorderly conduct for the open display of the rifle, however he would not have been cited for the holstered Glock, even though Kelly had a valid gun permit at the time.
Ray told KSL earlier this month, “…if someone is carrying a gun around in their hand they can be cited.” “This bill really clarifies things and gives them an outline to go by of in this situation you can write a ticket and in this situation you can’t.”
This bill is actually a modification of a similar bill Ray attempted to pass last year, but with some notable exceptions. 2013’s legislation affirmed that carrying a weapon did not cause disorderly conduct and that “The otherwise lawful possession of a dangerous weapon, whether visible or concealed, without additional behavior, does not constitute a hazardous or physically offensive condition, threatening behavior, or a cause for public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm.” This position supposed that people simply should not feel threatened or alarmed by the presence of a gun – or if they did, the law would not support an individual in the rational fear of a deadly weapon. HB 276 takes a different approach and acknowledges that the open display of a firearm in a readily accessible position (such as over the shoulder or in the hand) can create public unrest and be perceived as a threat.
People will, no doubt, still feel threatened by the presence of holstered weapons. But, presuming that the individual is in compliance with all other laws and regulations, this bill strikes a more reasonable balance between law enforcement, those who carry weapons, and the general public. In a state where many fiercely defend their Second Amendment rights, this bill is far more reasonable than Ray’s previous legislation.
The overall policy of allowing people to carry a weapon openly and in public is a separate issue, and one worth debating. Within the confines of the current pro-gun legislature, however, this bill is sound legislation that clarifies how people should and should not display their weapon in public.
To contact Representative Ray, Click Here or call 801-725-2719.
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Need for Legislation:
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Sound Legislation 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Clunker