This article by Carolyn Murray originally appeared on KPCW.org. Read it in its entirety here.
Action Utah is a bipartisan organization with the mission to promote civic engagement. They held a public forum last week and the community had the chance to meet three of Park City’s five state representatives. A crowd of about 50 people showed up. Audience questions covered a variety of topics.
Representatives Brian King and Tim Quinn along with State Senator Ron Winterton gave brief introductions and responded to topics raised by Action Utah Executive Director, Andrea Himoff. The focus of this report is to look at some of the key concerns brought up by constituents during the Q and A session.
Park City resident Ed Rutan is on the Board of Directors of Gun Violence Prevention in Utah. He shared data on gun deaths. He told representatives the two bills that would have done something to help protect Utahns from gun violence both died in the house rules committee, not making it to the floor for a vote.
Since 1999, the rate of death from firearms has increased almost 50%. In 1999 we were better than the rest of the country. Today, we’re worse. This is a really serious problem for our state and it’s getting worse.”HD 28 Democratic Representative Brian King covers Summit Park and parts of Pine Brook. He explained the bills were late to make it to the committee, but he plans to introduce the universal background check bill and extreme risk protective order bill earlier in the 2020 session.
HD 54 Republican Representative Tim Quinn says he owns two guns but supports background checks. For the extreme risk bill, sometimes referred to as red flag laws, he wants to see due process that would identify credible risks.
“I am supportive of universal background checks. As far as Red flag law, it depends upon the language. Because I don’t want to do something that infringes upon due process. I am troubled by some red flag laws that say, hey, I’m not even sure of her name but I’m just going to call somebody and tell she’s a danger to society and now they have the authority to go and take her guns from her.”
Republican Senator Ron Winterton from district 26 says if getting a commercial license to drive a vehicle requires a background check, so should buying a gun.
“But I won’t go to the point of saying we’ve got to see if they’re mentally stable too. Because that’s not part of the background check unless you’ve drafted something different. It seems to me like that is an area where we need to be aware of but we’re going to infringe and place judgment on individuals that we shouldn’t. So, I will support a background check.”
One person in the audience wanted to know if legislators ever held their colleagues accountable for disingenuous behavior. He used a recent vaping claim made by a legislator on TV that turned out to be untrue and poorly vetted.
“Do you ever look at your own body and see where people have stepped over the line and started being less than honest in their debate and their discussion. Have you ever gone to somebody and put your hand on their shoulder and said hey, that was just a little damaging to this body’s relationship to the voters? Quinn says he is bothered by a lack of integrity and doesn’t think it has a place in public service. He recounted a lunch conversation with fellow legislator, Brian King.
“And I said there are times where I respect your caucus more than I do many of the members of my caucus. And I said because in your caucus, most members in your caucus, I know exactly where they’re coming from. And they’re going to come that point no matter who they’re talking to. Whereas many members of my caucus, and not everybody, certainly not everybody. There are some great people on both sides of the aisle. But I said many in my caucus, I hear one thing when we’re in our majority caucus room and I hear another thing when they’re in front of a group that might be a little less conservative and I hear another thing when they’re in front of the TV camera.”
The propositions which passed at the ballot box last year have some constituents concerned that the will of the voters is being overridden by a legislature that claims to know better. Turning to examples like Proposition 4 which allows for an independent redistricting committee be appointed to draw district boundaries after the next census in 2020.
King says Utah ballot initiatives are statutory rather than constitutional and that legislators are not legally obligated by the outcomes of the propositions that were on last year’s ballot.
“What do we do when we feel the legislators don’t act in a way that reflects the will of the people? You vote them out of office. That’s what you do. And if you can’t do that, and if you don’t do that, you will send a message to those legislators that there is no accountability when they disregard the will of the people. Don’t blame us. Blame yourselves. Because you’re just telling us you can do whatever you want, and you won’t be held accountable.”