Scott G Winterton
District court judges could issue extreme risk protective orders permitting police to remove firearms from a person who “has a propensity for violent or emotionally unstable conduct” under a proposal before the Utah Legislature.

SALT LAKE CITY — District court judges could issue extreme risk protective orders permitting police to remove firearms from a person who “has a propensity for violent or emotionally unstable conduct” under a proposal before the Utah Legislature.

HB483, sponsored by Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, would allow a family member who has lived with an individual at least six months to seek the protective order. The bill defines family as parent, sibling, spouse or child.

After conducting a hearing in district court, a judge would decide “whether grounds for an extreme risk protective order exist,” the bill states.

The court order would prohibit the person from “owning, purchasing, possessing, receiving or having in his or her custody or control … a firearm or ammunition.”

The legislation also creates a process for return of the firearms.

The bill is scheduled for a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee at 10 a.m. Monday in Room 20 of the House Building.

Although the bill was not released to the public until Friday, Handy said he had already received pushback that the legislation enables the government to take people’s guns.

That is not the intent, he said.

"This is a public health, public safety kind of thing. That's the way we have to think about it," Handy said.

HB483 is patterned after policies of other states and requires a judicial process to protect respondents from false reports, he said.

HB483 says if a court determines “by clear and convincing evidence that the respondent poses a serious risk or harm to him or herself or others the court shall issue an ex parte extreme risk protective order” and set a hearing date within 20 days.

“We’re following the pattern of other states. We’re going to be very careful with this,” said Handy, who is a gun owner.

Steve Gunn, a board member of the Gun Violence Prevention Council of Utah, said the legislation is “sound public policy.”

It would provide “a reasonable approach” to remove firearms from people family members believe have a propensity toward violent conduct, he said.

Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said the organization has not taken a position on the bill.

Arizona and Indiana have similar versions of the bill in law or in the legislative process, so there may be opportunities to merge parts of those policies into Utah’s legislation, he said.

“We are committed to working with Rep. Handy on this,” he said.

According to the bill, a judge can consider as evidence an increased risk for violent conduct such as reckless use, display or brandishing of a firearm.

Other evidence could include a history of use, threatened use or physical force against another person, or a prior arrest for a violent offense or other felony offense.

Criminal offenses involving the use of controlled substances or alcohol could be considered evidence a judge could consider, as would “recent acquisition of firearms, ammunition, or other deadly weapons,” the bill states.

Gary Sackett, spokesman for the Gun Violence Prevention Council of Utah, in a statement said HB483, contains many provisions “that could provide an effective legal avenue to remove firearms from dangerous individuals.”

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The organization would “generally support” the legislation, which is consistent with due process and Second Amendment provisions of the U.S. Constitution and a leading Supreme Court decision on the regulation of firearms for personal defense, he said.

“This is only one of several actions the state and federal legislatures should take to reduce gun violence in our society. Over the long term, banning assault-style weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines and implementing universal background checks for firearm purchases can could have an even greater positive impact on reducing the effects of gun violence,” the statement said.