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Senate approves bill allowing guns around schools

Published: Saturday, March 5 2011 3:12 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A gun-free zone around schools would be removed under a bill approved in the Senate on Friday, but one senator says he's confident the governor will veto the bill.

HB75 would lift a 1,000-foot gun-free perimeter around schools, allowing people to openly carry weapons outside the grounds. The House passed the measure, sponsored by Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, last month.

The Senate passed the bill 19-8. Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, joined the Democrats in opposition, saying, "I'm fairly confident it's going to be vetoed."

"So, you can walk on the sidewalk in front of a school carrying an AK-47?" Hillyard asked during floor debate earlier this week.

"Pretty much," replied Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, Senate sponsor of the bill.

Hillyard attempted to amend the measure to set a boundary of the road or 50 feet, whichever is less, an amendment he said came at the behest of Gov. Gary Herbert's office. Hillyard, in earlier debate, said his grandchildren would "freak out" it they saw someone carrying a gun outside their school.

"I think there ought to be some buffer zone," Hillyard said.

"Oh boy, I don't understand even why this amendment is being proposed," said Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan. "To say we don't want a child to see a gun ... I don't understand that reasoning."

Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake, said for children whose parents have cautioned them about guns, seeing someone carrying one could be "very disturbing" and cause "significant anxiety."

Hinkins also opposed the amendment, which failed 14-10, saying it would give sex offenders more rights than law-abiding gun owners.

"We have our constitutional rights to carry firearms," he said, adding the bill brings Utah in line with other states where the absence of a buffer zone isn't a problem.

A Deseret News/KSL poll last month showed 60 percent of residents favor keeping the 1,000-foot buffer zone, while 36 percent say it should be removed.

e-mail: romboy@desnews.com

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