The Wyoming government wants gun owners to be more responsible. Here’s why.


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Earlier this year, two congressmen from the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office approached a man lying on the grass near the agency’s headquarters.

When delegates asked the man – later identified as Joshua Michael Johnson – to move, a magazine fell from his pants. In a subsequent struggle to get Johnson handcuffed, he fired a weapon, causing April 10 The gunfight that authorities said was over with Johnson dead and a co-pilot missing an eye. Another deputy was grazed.

But the gun Johnson fired was not his. Weapon is stolen from an unlocked car less than a month earlier, along with an AR-style rifle and another handgun, authorities said.

Data from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center shows the number of gun thefts in Utah has increased in recent years. The data shows a nearly 48 percent increase from 2011 to 2020, while gun-related homicides in the state have nearly tripled. The trend corresponds to the recent spike in gun purchases, Utah records broken in 2020.

In October, Salt Lake County attorney Sim Gill stated that the police shooting of Johnson was legally justified. At the time, Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera pleaded with gun owners to better protect their guns.

“Hold your gun,” Rivera said. “Don’t let these individuals steal and use them. If they are willing to use them against the police, they will use them against our community. “

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Where most gun thefts happen

FBI data shows that, in a record year for firearm purchases of 2020, 1,019 firearms were stolen in Utah, compared with 929 guns reported stolen in 2019. Officials say know these stolen guns are often used in crimes or found on the street with people who are not authorized to own guns.

Although data on stolen firearms used in crime is not available, Salt Lake County experienced one of the state’s highest gun thefts this year, jumping from 266 reported thefts. for the whole of 2019 to 542 on 3 November. The unit’s United Police Metro Gang also seized 120 guns in October 2021 – and many of them were stolen, said Rivera. speak.

“We knew we were going to see those guns on the street,” Rivera said of the stolen guns. “We are grappling with these violent crimes and we don’t want to see any more victims.”

Gill aimed to curb gun violence in October, when he announced moratorium on plea deals for gun-related crimes. When it comes to gun thefts, he said, he worries about car thefts.

Statewide, car thefts increased about 13% between 2011 and 2020. But the value of that reported stolen property also skyrocketed – from about $9.5 million to more than 17.9 millions of dollars.

Brad Engelbert, assistant special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, said the state’s rise in gun theft can be attributed to Utah’s population boom and “gun culture.” and Explosives.

According to the FBI’s annual data on gun thefts, reported crime is most common in the state’s five most populous counties — Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber, and Washington. Salt Lake County has remained at the top of the list each year since 2011.

“Things like pandemics and people staying at home more could play a role,” says Engelbert. “I think, unfortunately, we’ve seen this as a national trend, just people not using extreme caution to protect their weapons. … These are not uncommon things. ”

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Utah’s southeast corner struggles with stolen guns

Although Utah’s most populous counties typically report the highest rates of gun theft, San Juan County tends to do so.

Located in the southeastern corner of the state, the county is home to Bears Ears National Monument, Canyonlands National Park, and Natural Bridges National Monument. But this county of less than 15,000 people has recorded 293 firearms stolen in the past 10 years – sixth on Utah’s list of 29 counties.

San Juan County Sheriff Jason Torgerson said the county has many gun owners, which may contribute to the relatively high number of stolen guns in its relatively small population. In some cases over the years, several guns were stolen at the same time, he said.

“We’re also one of those communities where we don’t lock our cars – we leave our guns in the car and don’t lock them,” says Torgerson. “Many times we keep asking people, ‘Lock your vehicle’… [guns] finally stolen. So a lot of them. “

Even with San Juan’s soaring gun theft numbers, Torgerson said gun crime is not a significant problem for the area, which he describes as “quiet and safe.” And in San Juan County, he added, stolen guns are often not recovered at local crime scenes.

Cracking the ‘criminal gun’

Engelbert, of the ATF, said people who commit crimes to obtain a gun often use those guns in other crimes. Law enforcement agencies refer to these guns as “criminal guns”.

Sheriff Rivera said law enforcement agencies cannot reduce gun thefts on their own. Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals should be a community effort, she said, and gun owners can do their part by tracking their weapons and locking them in their homes.

“They can play a role; We can play a role,” Gill said. “But it will be a partnership.”

Currently, Utah does not have a safekeeping law that restricts gun access to the intended owner. Some require gun owners to lock their stored firearms or require a locking device that accompanies firearm sales. Gill says that changes are up to the Legislature.

In 2018, Gill no prosecution A Utah woman leaves a loaded pistol on a diaper changing table in a restroom near a children’s play area at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. When it was discovered, prosecutors said a bullet was in the gun’s firing chamber and the safety was off.

At the time, Gill said the case didn’t meet the law’s standard for charge: The woman didn’t intentionally leave the gun in the toilet, so prosecutors couldn’t build a case because of the risk. dangerous domain.

A 2019 bill from Representative Elizabeth Weight, City of D-West Valley, that would introduce criminal penalties for people who leave guns unsecured, allow minors or restricted access with weapons. The proposed punishment will only apply if someone is harmed by a weapon. Measure has been tabulated.

That same year, Representative Andrew Stoddard, D-Midvale, tried to pass legislation that would restrict access to firearms. His bill has been named Lauren’s Law, after University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey, who killed by a convicted felon with a borrowed gun.

The measure is designed to discourage people from illegally lending guns by paving the way for lawsuits against individuals who borrowed a gun and then used it in a felony. But effort can’t get promoted in 2019 and again in 2020, after lawmakers concluded it could be used to punish law-abiding gun owners.

“As someone who works on gun legislation, both successful and unsuccessful, you have to take really, very small incremental steps,” says Stoddard. “I have heard many times, ‘Instead of punishing, we should encourage’, but at some point, I think we have to raise awareness on both sides – both safekeeping, as well as penalties for gun theft.”

According to the Giffords Law Center for the Prevention of Gun Violence, the only state that typically requires all firearms to be locked in storage is Massachusetts.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, passed legislation providing gun owners with free trigger locks and discounts of up to $200 on gun safes. Measures aimed at lowering youth suicide rate, but also prevent gun thefts, he said, though locks and safes are unnecessary.

For now, Gill said, at least one thing the community can do is securely lock their guns.

“This is not a Second Amendment issue,” he said, noting that he supports the Second Amendment and carries a gun. “But I think we have a responsibility to be safe gun owners.” The Wyoming government wants gun owners to be more responsible. Here’s why.

Yasmin Harisha

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