By Matthew K. Jensen
Saturday, July 11, 2009 3:06 AM CDT
Jared Smith talks about state gun laws as he stands outside of
Logan City Hall Friday. Smith and other residents have pointed
out to the Logan Municipal Council that the city is in a potentially
“precarious” situation by having laws on the books that have
potential to violate cvil rights of residents.
(Alan Murray/Herald Journal)
While some call it oversight, others call it a blatant violation of civil rights.
When Utah enacted statewide uniform gun laws in 2004, multiple cities failed to update their municipal codes, many of which downright prohibit residents from carrying a concealed weapon, even with a permit. Logan was one of a handful of cities across the state that left decades-old ordinances inside city code, something gun owners thought would have changed years ago.
Jared Smith of Smithfield said he and several residents wanted to let the Logan Municipal Council know it was in a potentially “precarious” situation by having laws on the books that have potential to violate civil rights of residents, he said.
“Our real purpose was to let the city council know that this was a concern to us,” said Smith. “There were some reports of some law-abiding citizens that were carrying firearms that were being harassed by Logan city officers. They were being told it was illegal to have a gun in Logan, period.
Smith said he and others contacted Logan city to be told they were “old laws and they weren’t going to do anything about them.”
“So we pushed them a little bit more, gave them four or five months,” he said. “Finally, the city attorney said that if I were really passionate about this to go ahead and file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office because we would like to get his opinion.”
Smith contacted the Utah AG’s office and was informed the city of Logan needed to remove the statutes from its municipal code.
On Tuesday, Smith and some colleagues then showed up at a Logan City Municipal Council meeting on Tuesday to express their concerns. Some of those involved wore a concealed weapon to demonstrate their concern.
“That’s why the state has these uniform firearm laws so there isn’t confusion about this,” added Smith. “I shouldn’t have to worry about what the laws are going from city to city.”
Logan City Attorney Kymber Housley says the laws are misplaced and that his department is working to eliminate all but one element of the code from the list of ordinances.
The statute that remains prohibits the discharge of firearms within Logan limits. Housley said the city-specific law will remain in effect and says officers can and will enforce it.
“There’s several ordinances on the books that we haven’t enforced over the years,” he said. “The issue we have is deciding whether to repeal all of it, do we keep portions of it that deal with non-firearms like brass knuckles and nunchucks, or do we just leave it to the state to regulate all forms of dangerous weapons?”
Smith said he and his colleagues presented the same information to the cities of Layton and Smithfield, which, according to him, resolved the issues in weeks. Smith informed Logan about its inconsistency more than seven months ago.
“We’ve never taken issue with it,” said Housley. “We know that they’re in conflict with state law.”
Housley said he’s worked for the city’s legal department for 14 years and has no recollection of any officer issuing a citation for the ordinance. His department checked the past five years of court records and found no legal action taken against Logan residents involving the gun laws.
“I’m not saying that somewhere out there somebody wasn’t stopped and told they can’t have a weapon,” he said. “But as far as issued citations that we’ve prosecuted, there have been none in the past five years.”
The new code has been drafted and is being reviewed by the police department. It will then go before the Logan Municipal Council for approval and action. The new ordinances will be in effect as soon as the council votes but Housley stressed that the online codifier may not immediately reflect the new changes.
“I think we should comply with state law that says we can’t regulate firearms and that’s what we’re gonna do,” he added. “The issue then is how much do we leave in there that deals with deadly weapons that aren’t firearms.”
He added, “My personal opinion, and in fact it’s our policy, if we’ve got a choice between prosecuting a state violation or a city ordinance for the same type of conduct, we always prosecute the state violation.”
Smith says he doesn’t consider himself an overly active gun rights enthusiast, but rather a regular citizen who noticed something that needed to be addressed and doing something about it.
“I’m just a regular guy who happens to own a gun,” he said. “I don’t really consider myself an enthusiast. I’m just a concerned gun owner.”