Supporters of a bill that would remove the 1,000-foot gun-free zone around Utah schools have said the restrictions are making accidental criminals out of law-abiding people. If someone's car breaks down in front of a school, for instance, and the driver removes his gun from the car while inspecting the vehicle, the driver has broken the law.
Never mind that the law already allows exceptions for legal firearms contained in vehicles and that we can't think of a reason why a car repair would necessitate a firearm, the fact is that HB75, which passed the Senate late last week and now heads to the governor's desk, would create a lot more potential confusion and trouble than currently exists.
Under the worst-case scenario, in which a crazed gunman approached a school intent on doing harm, the removal of the gun-free zone also would remove an important tool from law-enforcement's arsenal. Until the gunman committed a crime, such as actually firing the gun, no one could stop him.
It is significant, also, to consider that this bill would remove gun-free zones from around stadiums, parks or buildings in which a school activity is taking place. Also, it is important to note that lawmakers rejected an amendment that would have made anyone who caused a school to go into lockdown because he or she was carrying a weapon responsible for the costs. The bill, in fact, takes just about everything into account except the safety and well-being of students who, as one lawmaker put it, shouldn't be afraid of seeing a gun.
We support the Second Amendment, as do, we assume, most Utahns. The right to bear arms was constitutionally protected for reasons that are as valid today as they were at the birth of the republic. But we also support common sense, and this bill is remarkably devoid of that.
Supporters insist the bill would not lead to a sudden increase in the number of people who carry guns near school property. The law already allows people who carry concealed-weapons permits to do so.
We're not so sure about that claim, given how some people seem intent on proving a point by carrying such laws to their extremes. Still, if that argument is sound, lawmakers ought to have considered that the current 1,000-foot restriction also did not lead to large numbers of people being arrested for inadvertently carrying firearms near schools. At least, no one attempted to make such an argument.
Gov. Gary Herbert needs to veto this bill, which creates plenty of problems by attempting to solve those that don't exist.