Utah Legislature Tries to Rein In Anti-Gun Police at Salt Lake City Airport

Salt Lake City Police Department
Courtesy Fox 13

A recent report from Fox 13 News in Utah tells the wild story of a police department that’s gone rogue. Despite changes to the law that were supposed to make life easier for gun owners who made honest mistakes, the Salt Lake City Police Department instead put gun owners through hell.

According to reports, the SLCPD began charging gun owners with recklessness so they could get around the intent of the law and charge gun owners who accidentally brought firearms into the airport. Now, in response, the state legislature is considering making further changes to the law and weighing whether to kick SLPD officers out of the Salt Lake City airport.

Click here to watch the Fox 13 report.

The story started during a previous legislative session. The legislature passed a new law that reduces the penalties for accidentally taking a gun through security in your carry-on. They left the option open for people to still be in hot water if it was clear that they were intentionally trying to violate the law, but for most people who made honest mistakes, the legislature wanted cops to take it easy.

Sadly, that’s not what the Salt Lake City Police Department did. They interpreted the law in a way to treat anyone who accidentally carried a gun through TSA to be treated like hijackers or criminals. At some point, the department suspended a police officer who tried to follow the intent of state law rather than the directives of supervisors.

As a result, the legislature is trying to get the SLCPD to do the right thing. When department brass refused to discuss the suspension and told a legislative committee they were relying on their interpretation of the law, legislators threatened to exclude SLCPD officers from the airport and staff it with state troopers.

Stopping just short of that, legislators are re-writing the law to give the SLCPD as little leeway in interpretation as possible, with undeniably clear language on what officers are expected to do when they encounter a gun in a carry-on bag or on a person trying to go through TSA.

The new bill explicitly states that first-time violators are to be given a warning, and are not to be charged or fined. Subsequent violations can result in fines and jail time. To prevent de facto  confiscation, law enforcement will be required to return firearms to owners within three business days.

All enforcement data on security stops is supposed to go to the state for further review. When legislators meet next year, the data and any other information they gather will be reviewed, and the option of putting Highway Patrol in charge of airport security will still be an option.

Why Is This Happening?

political map of Utag
Results of the 2020 presidential election by county. Image from Wikipedia Commons (Creative Commons License)

Utah is a largely solidly red state and constitutionalism is practically baked into the LDS religion. But it’s important to keep in mind that Utah isn’t the same everywhere. Like many red states, it has some blue pockets such as the greater Salt Lake City urban center.

While many outdoorsy hippy types have taken up residence in Moab, they don’t tend to be as rabidly anti-gun as the leftists who live in Salt Lake City. So while the state remains solidly pro-gun over all, Salt Lake City has a very different demographic mix.

The state legislature has enough power that it’s still more than able to rein in anti-gun abuses such as this. The legislature has actually shown a lot of restraint here, but I hope that the anti-gun politicians in Salt Lake don’t mistake restraint for weakness. Stay tuned.

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