A bill that would put state gun laws above federal laws passed out of committee on Monday, after key provisions were amended to soften the legislation's language.
In its original form, House Bill114 would have made it a felony for federal agents to try to seize firearms from Utah residents. Republican Representative Brian Greene's legislation has since been amended to remove that provision, but the bill still includes language giving "legal primacy" to the state when it comes to gun regulations. That language helped HB114 earn a constitutional note from legal analysts who have said that the bill violates the supremacy and commerce clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
Undeterred by detractors, Representative Greene argued on Monday that his bill is more about an erosion of states rights than it is about the right to bear arms.
“There's no question that in our lifetimes and even before there has been a rapid increase in federal infringement upon states' rights and a resulting decline in the authority that the states retain - largely due to federal action that has been challenged and upheld or not challenged because the states have been reluctant to do that.”
That was during a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, in a third attempt by Greene to get his bill advanced. His first two tries were thwarted as committees ran over their allotted time owing to long public testimony, which prevented a vote on the bill.
During Monday’s hearing, Democratic Representative Brian King, of Salt Lake, argued that the constitutional note on the bill showed its inherent flaws.
“It is not God-given, it is given by the Constitution and that Constitution is interpreted by the federal judiciary and specifically the Supreme Court. I will not vote for bills that have constitutional notes attached to them because they are the well-considered opinions of our legislative council that something isn’t just possibly unconstitutional but is highly probable to be unconstitutional.”
King later posted a message to his Twitter account that said “arguing that the right to carry guns is ‘God-given’ rather than Constitutional is based on the desire to fuse church and state.”
Despite the opposition expressed by King, the bill advanced out of the committee with a favorable recommendation on a 9 to 2 vote.
It will now be heard on the House floor.