SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert's impromptu proclamation that "it's about guns, guns and more guns" held true Thursday as two gun-related bills passed through a House committee meeting.
A bill that would make it illegal to deny lodging to someone carrying a legally permitted firearm met some opposition in the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee. The main point of debate was property owners' rights versus the right to bear arms.
HB223 would not impinge upon innkeeper's rights because rights are transferred to the renter, said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem.
"When you rent a room you gain certain privileges and rights because you pay to occupy that space for a certain period of time," Sandstrom said.
Rep. David Butterfield, R-Logan, disagreed. "This is an erosion of [property owners'] rights," he said. He was the only nay vote on the bill.
Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake, raised safety concerns. "Someone could leave the firearm in the room with the door open," she said. "How do we deal with problems like that?"
Sandstrom replied, "You can't legislate common sense about locking a room or keeping a door shut."
Arent also voiced concern over the vagueness of the word "accommodations" in the bill's text. Without an amendment limiting the word to mean the room being rented, "we would be hard pressed to say they couldn’t bring it to other areas," Arent said.
Sandstrom said he would be willing to amend the bill to be more specific.
Michael Johnson, executive director of the Utah Hotel and Lodging Association, testified that allowing guns into rooms is already common practice in the lodging industry. He said he hasn't run into any examples where people were turned down at a hotel because of a gun.
A bill that would change the fees for a concealed weapons permit met less resistance from the committee.
HB214, sponsored by Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, would decrease the price of a concealed weapons permit by $5.25. It would also increase the renewal fee by $5.
According to Oda, the decrease in permit fees would not have a recognizable affect because the program is bringing in a surplus. "We're not actually losing money, we're just not bringing in as much," he said.