SALT LAKE CITY — An unlikely ally emerged Wednesday to those pushing Gov. Gary Herbert to veto legislation that would lower the legal blood-alcohol content for driving in Utah to .05 percent.
Utah Shooting Sports Council chairman Clark Aposhian delivered a letter to the governor's office expressing opposition to HB155, saying it would have unintended consequences to Second Amendment rights and self-defense.
If the bill becomes law, it would be illegal to carry a dangerous weapon with a blood-alcohol content of .05 percent or greater, he said. It would unfairly treat people who carry weapons with or without a state-issued permit, he said.
"They could be in their own home. There are no exceptions," Aposhian said.
Meantime, the American Beverage Institute based in Washington, D.C., is cranking up the heat on the governor with a new full-page ad running Thursday not only in the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune, but also in USA Today.
Titled "Utah: Come for Vacation, Leave on Probation," the ad depicts a 34-year-old, 5-foot-2-inch woman in a mug shot holding a sign that reads: "Crime: Had one drink with dinner."
The organization, which represents restaurants across the country, ran ads last week in both Salt Lake daily newspapers opposing the law. The Utah Restaurant Association and the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association asked Herbert to veto the bill in a meeting earlier this week.
Herbert said Tuesday that he is carefully weighing the pros and cons of the bill and would make decision by March 29, the last day he has to sign, veto or let 2017 legislation go into law without his signature.
Utah would be the first state in the nation to lower the legal threshold from .08 percent to .05 percent. The law wouldn't take effect until Dec. 30, 2018.
Aposhian said it "sounds like" the shooting sports council has become an unlikely ally to those against HB155. He said it's not taking a position on the driving part of the bill.
The group believes it is not good practice to shoot while drinking or that people should be allowed to carry a gun while drunk, he said.
"However, there is a big difference between actively shooting a firearm while drunk and simply carrying a firearm or hunting knife when one has had a beer. We believe that a person should not lose the ability to exercise their right of self-defense for having a small amount of alcohol in their system," the group said in a news release.
Aposhian said he didn't realize until the next to the last day of the 2017 Legislature that the measure would impact gun rights. He said Herbert should veto the bill because legislators did not debate that issue.