Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, has decided to vote for a gun control bill - something no other Utah congressman in memory dared do, especially with Utah's scores of deer hunters and other gun enthusiasts.
Owens said he plans to vote next Tuesday for a bill to require a seven-day waiting period before people may buy guns. It is called the "Brady bill" because it is pushed by James Brady, Ronald Reagan's press secretary who was shot and paralyzed in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley.Reagan finally decided last month to back the same bill - even though he too opposed any form of gun control throughout his political career.
Utah's two other House members - Reps. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, and Bill Orton, D-Utah - told the Deseret News they will vote against that bill.
But they will vote for another bill endorsed by the National Rifle Association that would require instant criminal background checks for people who want to buy guns.
Owens actually favors that NRA bill also - and said he hopes to vote for an amendment some members hope to design that would put the Brady bill into law only until instant crime checks would be technologically possible nationwide.
"I have always opposed federal gun control and still do. But I don't see much problem with a bill to require people to wait seven days for a criminal background check before they buy a gun," especially for just the three or four years before the NRA bill could be implemented nationwide, Owens said.
He added that he has "asked my friends at the NRA" for years to come up with legislation they could support to help fight crimes committed with guns. He says NRA support of the instant crime checks is a positive step. "I just wish it would support a seven-day waiting period until that can be implemented."
Owens expects some political damage from his vote. "But I don't care about that. I vote for what I think is good policy, then hold my breath and hope things work out. But, yes, I am planning to do some political damage repair."
Orton said he believes current law would allow individual states to implement seven-day waiting periods if they choose. "So that could be done in areas with special problems, like New York and Los Angeles. But I don't think we need a nationwide waiting period to address local problems."
He said he favors the NRA's instant crime bill "because that would have to be done by the FBI nationwide. So it makes sense to pass a nationwide bill in that case."
Hansen said the Brady bill "is only a feel-good bill that would make the Bradys and some congressmen feel good, but I bet it won't make a dent at all in crime."
He added that studies show 86 percent of criminals obtain guns illegally - so the bill would not affect them. Also, he said no criminal would give his real name and address for a background check.
He added that 95 percent of Utah households own guns, allowing criminals to obtain them easily through simple theft.
All three Utah House members said their offices are receiving heavy mail and numerous calls on the upcoming Brady bill vote.
Hansen and Owens said their mail has been heavily against the Brady bill. But Orton said his mail has actually been in favor of it. "But I don't think that's necessarily representative of my district," Orton said. "I would have guessed it would have been just the opposite."