The man that represents a large swath of BYU’s off-campus students on Utah’s Capitol Hill is hoping the second time is charm for a bill that would allow weapons on public transportation, such as busses and Frontrunner.
Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, has sponsored bill HB67 to allow weapons on public transportation. The law says, “A person who boards a bus with a concealed dangerous weapon or firearm upon his person or effects is guilty of a third-degree felony.”
“What originally got me interested in this topic was realizing who this issue impacts, and that is people who rely on public transportation.” Thurston said. He explained that the way the current law is written about weapons on busses is unique and can cause some confusion and mistreatment. The new modification would mean that the same laws that apply elsewhere in the state would also be applied on busses.
“Who gets to decide what qualifies as a dangerous weapon?” Thurston said, “The law doesn’t specify that. If someone were to have a pair of scissors in their purse or a bat in a bag, would those qualify as dangerous weapons?”
Thurston believes that the current law creates an issue where police might be more aggressive, particularly in low-income areas. He clarified that as long as the object is concealed and the person is minding his or her own business, that person should not be treated as if they were guilty of a felony.
Thurston trusts that this bill would ultimately bring fairness to those who travel via public transportation. “The difference between a misdemeanor versus a felony is a big step. This bill would distinguish the line between things that should and should not be treated as a serious crime.”
Tyler Tribbett is one of many individuals who rely on the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) to get to his work every day. When asked about his thoughts on the bill, Tribbett said, “I agree that there should be clear distinction about what would be considered a felony or a misdemeanor or what constitutes a dangerous weapon.”
However, Tribbett thinks that this bill could bring some safety concerns regarding people who might carry a gun or knife without a permit and questions if this bill would enable more attacks.
This is the second time for this bill to be discussed on Capitol Hill. Rep. Thurston said that during the last legislative session, he and his team got a late start to get the bill drafted and ran out of time. He said that the house seemed very supportive of the bill and he anticipates favorable results during this year’s session. Opponents of the bill said that change in the law would make passengers less safe.
Thurston, BYU alum, filled the seat of former House Speaker Becky Lockhart who died in January 2015 after an unexpected diagnosis and battle with an aggressive brain disease. While his district doesn’t include BYU campus, he does represents many BYU students who live south of 300 North.