(Gun Owners of Utah)

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GOUtah! Alert #282 – 6 February 2008

Today’s Maxim of Liberty:

“The rifle is the weapon of democracy. If guns are outlawed, only the
government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the
military. The hired servants of our rulers. Only the government - and
a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws."

-- Edward Abbey


SB 157 Substitute (sponsored by Sen. Mark Madsen), a bill that
GOUtah! strongly supports, passed the Senate Judiciary, Law
Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday by a vote of
5 / 2.

SB 157 Substitute is designed to prohibit state and local law-
enforcement agencies and their officers from illegally confiscating
privately-owned firearms during a declared state of emergency, and
also to prohibit state and local government agencies and officials
from enacting any gun restrictions that weren’t already legally in
effect prior to the emergency.

The following senators voted for the bill (and for gun rights and
self-defense rights): Mark Madsen, John Valentine, Greg Bell, Lyle
Hillyard, Jon Greiner

The following senators voted against the bill (and against gun rights
and self-defense rights): Scott McCoy, Ross Romero

The bill now goes to the floor of the Senate. Unfortunately, Sen.
Hillyard offered an amendment in the committee hearing that weakens
the bill a bit in our opinion, and his amendment was approved by the
committee, with only Sen. Madsen voting against it. However, we
still believe the bill is a good one that needs to be passed without
being watered down any further.

We support SB 157 Substitute as long as no hostile amendments are
introduced. A hostile amendment in this case would be an amendment
proposed on the floor by anyone other than the bill’s sponsor, Sen.
Madsen. It is possible that someone will introduce a hostile
amendment designed to essentially gut the bill, and we will oppose
such efforts.

As it stands, the bill in its current form prohibits any official or
agency of the executive branch of the state government (meaning
anyone from the Governor to your local city council or police
department and all the way down to your local dog-catcher) from
imposing or enforcing gun restrictions during a state of emergency
declared by the Governor, unless those restrictions were already
legally in effect prior to the state of emergency. Thus, for
example, your local police department may enforce existing gun laws
with vigor during an emergency, but they can’t suddenly start
prohibiting you from possessing or carrying a firearm as long as
you’re doing so in a manner that complies with the existing laws.
The bill also prohibits state and local government agencies and their
employees from confiscating legally possessed firearms from private
citizens, as happened on a widespread basis in the aftermath of
Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, and provides a mechanism
for citizens to collect damages through the civil courts if firearms
are illegally seized. If the bill passes in its current form, any
government employee, such as a police officer, who is found liable in
a court of law for confiscating firearms from a citizen in violation
of this statute would have to pay $5,000 per firearm, and the agency
that employs him would have to pay $10,000 per firearm, and the
agency would also be required to return the firearm(s) to the
rightful owner.

The original bill would have also required the defendants, if found
liable, to reimburse the plaintiff for attorney’s fees. In other
words, if the police confiscated your gun illegally and you sued them
successfully, they would have had to pay your attorney’s fees in
addition to paying damages. Hillyard’s amendment removes this
reimbursement requirement for attorney’s fees, unfortunately.


We encourage you to contact your own Utah State Senator as soon as
possible and ask him to vote for SB 157 Substitute and to oppose any
hostile amendments.

You may send a letter or fax to your senator at the Capitol, or you
may leave a brief message at the Capitol switchboard. Capitol Hill
contact info is provided below. Alternatively, you may call your
Senator at home in the evening or on the weekend. Or you may e-mail
your senator (though e-mail tends to be less effective than other
means of contact). The direct e-mail address and home phone number
of your own senator can be found by going to GOUtah!’s website at
http://www.goutahorg.org and clicking on “Legislative Contacts” in
the left-hand column. If you don’t know who your State Senator is,
go to http://se15.utahsenate.org/perl/spage/distmapal.pl

Utah State Senate
320 State Capitol
P.O. Box 145115
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114
Phone: 801-538-1035
Fax for Republican senators: 801-326-1475
Fax for Democratic senators: 801-326-1476

That concludes GOUtah! Alert #282 – 6 February 2008.
Copyright 2008 by GOUtah!. All rights reserved.


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Dear ________________________:

As a gun owner and voter living in your district, I encourage you to
vote for SB 157 Substitute, Senator Mark Madsen’s “Katrina” bill,
provided that no hostile amendments are added to it, and to
vigorously oppose any effort to add hostile amendments. In
particular, I encourage you to oppose any efforts to remove the
liability clause from this bill.

SB 157 Substitute would prohibit state and local law-enforcement
agencies and their officers from confiscating legally owned firearms
from private citizens during a declared state of emergency, as
happened on a widespread basis in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina
in 2005. Law-abiding citizens had their self-defense weapons
illegally seized at a time when the right to self-defense was
paramount, and many of these citizens are still trying to get their
firearms returned to them. SB 157 Substitute is a good bill and it
has teeth, because it imposes civil liability on agencies and
officers that illegally seize guns from private citizens. It is
important that this liability clause be retained in the final version
of the bill.

Once the vote on SB157 Substitute has been taken on the floor of the
Senate, please get back to me and let me know how you voted.

Thanks for your attention to this matter.


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