Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, moved Senate Bill 80 favorably out of committee Monday, giving the mentally ill who have been restricted from owning firearms an avenue to reclaim their Second Amendment rights if they could prove their rehabilitation and recovery to a judge.
Thatcher developed the bill while looking into how Utah shares information with other states about Utahns who have been determined by state courts not to be allowed to own firearms. In the course of that research, Thatcher discovered that federal firearms restrictions against mentally ill individuals requires states to establish means of appealing the restriction if an individual who once had their right to firearms revoked has since rehabilitated.
“Currently in the state of Utah, there is no [appeal] no matter how diligent you’ve been and no matter what treatment you’ve been through, and I don’t think that’s OK,” Thatcher said.
Thatcher said the bill would set a high threshold for those seeking to reclaim their right to own firearms. It would require meeting a clear and convincing standard of evidence that an individual is no longer a danger to themselves and others, and would require disclosure of their medical records to a judge and prosecutor to verify the individual’s stability.
Thatcher likely expected only a dozen or fewer individuals annually would likely avail themselves of the appeal if his bill passes into law.
Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, was the only dissenting vote, arguing that the bill missed the bigger picture, inferring that providing access to guns for the mentally ill was a pittance compared to more substantive ways of helping the mentally ill.
“If you want to be humane to people with mental illnesses, you give them treatment, not a gun,” Jones said.
Thatcher, however, argued that giving people deemed safe by a judge their full constitutional rights back was an important remedy. The Senate Judiciary Committee agreed and passed the bill out to the Senate floor with a favorable recommendation.
To read SB 80, click here. To contact Sen. Thatcher about his bill, click here. To find your legislator to contact them about this bill, click here. For more updates from the Hill, follow @EricSPeterson on Twitter.