Bernick Mug 01

The GOP-controlled Utah Legislature and Republican Gov. Gary Herbert are going to have some tough decisions come the 2020 general session: What to do about gun control and gun violence?

For all the talk of violent video games, mental health and so on, it is clear -- and has been for some time -- that the only real, serious answer to mass shootings and quick, painless and effective suicide is fewer guns.

Fewer guns in the hands of people who should not have them, true.

But fewer guns, none the less.

Will universal background checks on all gun sales stop some bad or troubled people (mostly men, because men almost exclusively kill in mass), keep some deaths from happening?

Likely. But only a few.

We already have background checks at retail gun stores and at gun shows by licensed dealers.

Most private gun sales, which are now exempt from background checks, are among people who know each other, and you probably aren’t going to get gangbangers to conduct a background check on one of their gang members, now are you?

One proposed bill in Utah really could help -- Rep. Steve Handy’s Red Flag law.

That would allow a relative worried about a family member with access to guns to go to a judge, give sworn testimony about the dangers to the disturbed person and those around him. The judge could order the guns temporarily removed from the person’s access -- with hearings later that the person could attend to get the guns back.

These could stop some gun killings during emotional settings, like a divorce or child custody battles.

Not the whole answer, but a part.

The whole answer is fewer guns -- and fewer guns made and sold to fire a lot of rounds quickly.

Clearly guns like the commercial AR-15 and other high-capacity, semi-automatic military-type weapons were designed to kill a lot of people quickly.

You don’t need to hunt deer with these weapons -- who wants to machine-gun a deer?

Yes, these weapons are fun to shoot.

I have shot a few myself.

But fun to shoot doesn’t translate into the 2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms.

The 1st Amendment right of free speech and the press was written with the Founders looking at newspapers and political broadsheets.

They couldn’t have imagined a time when we had radio and TV news, or the Internet. Way beyond their minds.

Yet the freedom of the press was, via courts and laws, extended to protect these things.

Guns in the Founders’ days were muzzle-loaders, both pistols and rifles. Slow to load, inaccurate to shoot. Modern technology has given us weapons much more powerful and deadly.

Did the Founders really want to protect disturbed people from shooting down 50 people at a public event from hundreds of yards away -- with bump-stocks, high-powered scopes and bullet magazines that hold dozens of rounds?

Of course not.

Not even close.

They would have banned such weapons and accessories and been as appalled by their use as we are.

But can GOP Utah legislators see their way to control -- even ban sales -- of such troublesome weapons?

Can they even pass Handy’s Red Flag law?

Our gun control polling (you can find them on our homepage) shows that Utahns desire some actions on reasonable, and effective, gun control laws.

Universal background checks for sure.

Red Flag laws, probably.

At the very least, the polling shows that Utah voters want legislators to try to find sane solutions to some insane acts of mass violence.