SALT LAKE CITY — Carl Calaway knows that keeping guns out of the hands of individuals facing domestic violence convictions or protective orders likely wouldn't have saved his daughter's life, but it's part of a bigger conversation he believes needs to happen.
"She was a good, kind person," Calaway said of his daughter, 23-year-old Katherine Peralta. The woman was gunned down in December by her husband, who then turned the gun on himself. The woman's family said Richard Peralta, 25, had just learned his wife wanted a divorce.
"This bill might not have saved her specifically, but there need to be bills like this to start making changes," Calaway said.
HB206 sponsor Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said the bill would align Utah law with federal law, emphasizing that Utah's domestic violence crime rate has long been higher than the national average.
"If you have prior domestic violence and a gun in the home, the likelihood that a woman dies increases dramatically," King said, noting that a woman is five times more likely to be killed in a domestic violence incident if a firearm is present.
The House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee voted unanimously Friday to pass the bill to the House floor with a favorable recommendation.
According to King, state police and prosecutors don't have resources or priorities to enforce federal law.
"Replicating in state law what is already prohibited on a federal law level just brings more resources to the table," he said.
"It makes it much more likely that, for individuals who already shouldn't have a gun because they have been convicted of domestic violence or have a protective order entered against them that we have the resources to go after those individuals, identify them, and get the guns out of those individuals' hands," King said.
Jennifer Campbell, executive director of South Valley Services, said that as 1,600 domestic violence victims come seeking help from the organization each year, the first question asked is whether there is a gun in their home.
"That question is always answered with much fear," Campbell said. "We support this because we need more help for those individuals."
In his statements, Calaway noted that he is a firm supporter of the Second Amendment and that those rights are ultimately protected by laws like the one King is proposing.
"These (rights) get protected by bills like this," he said. "They don't hurt it."
King noted that he is working on an amendment to the bill in conjunction with the National Rifle Association and the Utah Shooting Sports Council to better align the bill with federal law, and once amended, the bill has support from those organizations.
Calaway emphasized that efforts need to be made on several fronts to prevent deaths like his daughter's.
"These bills, this is just a small part," Calaway said. "I lost my daughter. She'll never walk through that door again. Her (15-month-old) son waits every day, and he's going to need some help because he doesn't understand why she doesn't walk through the door. What I wouldn't give to have her walk through those doors right now. He would never let her go."