When it comes to overseeing Utah's gun laws, are the inmates running the asylum? One wonders, with lawmakers' latest challenge of a Utah State Hospital weapons ban.
Legislators in interim meetings reiterated their hard-line stance against any semblance of restriction for those who would pack heat into churches, schools, hospitals or anywhere else. That despite 90-percent public approval for restricting guns from churches, schools and universities.The state-run Provo psychiatric facility cares for more than 300 mentally ill Utahns. Officials there have an unofficial policy banning guns, and they want that to become law. Hospital Superintendent Mark Payne told the Legislature's Administrative Rules Review Committee a broad ban is essential to protect staff, patients and visitors.
Patients at the state hospital have been diagnosed as dangerous to themselves and others. Having weapons anywhere on the grounds - even in the hands of licensed concealed carriers - increases the likelihood of a tragic incident. As Payne duly noted, "It just does not mix with our population." Trained security personnel provide adequate protection to those on the 325-acre campus.
Yet that common-sense approach continues to be scorned by Utah lawmakers who refuse to budge an inch on gun issues, despite that public's perception that reasonable limitations are needed in churches, schools, hospitals and some state offices. Not surprisingly, delegates to the state Republican Convention approved a resolution condemning weapons bans at the University of Utah, the state hospital and among state workers.
The legislative challenge of the hospital's ban points out the need to reconsider Utah's gun laws and to inject them with a modicum of common sense. A sampling of letters to the facility on the subject indicate more people in favor than opposed.
At a minimum, churches, schools and hospitals in the Beehive State should be gun-free. The question of weapons and the 2002 Winter Games looms on the horizon as well. Legislators should bite the bullet and heed the opinions of those they were called to represent on this issue. The issue is not going away anytime soon and needs to be debated fully and openly.
Utah's GOP would not be abandoning the Second Amendment by injecting reasonable restraints into the state's gun laws. Supporting a prohibition policy at the Utah State Hospital is a good place to start.