Jun 9, 2022 - Politics

Sen. Derek Kitchen wants to raise the age to purchase a gun in Utah

Minimum age to purchase handguns, by state
Data: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence; Cartogram: Jacque Schrag/Axios

In the wake of the Uvalde, Texas elementary school shooting, state Sen. Derek Kitchen, a Salt Lake City Democrat, is drafting legislation that would raise the legal age to purchase a firearm in Utah from 18 to 21.

  • Kitchen said the idea of the bill came to him the day after the Texas shooting when a close friend confided that she couldn’t ensure her 3-year-old son's safety after dropping him off at daycare.

Why it matters: The first-term senator said raising the legal age to purchase a gun in the state will save lives, citing a study that showed people between the ages of 18–20 commit gun offenses at a disproportionate rate.

  • According to the study by Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 18 to 20-year-olds make up about 4% of the U.S. population but account for nearly 20% of gun homicide offenders.

By the numbers: A recent ABC News/Ipsos poll found that 70% of Americans say they place greater importance on enacting gun control laws to reduce gun violence over gun ownership rights, Axios' Ivana Saric reported.

Of note: Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown said Tuesday during a news conference addressing gun violence that he supported raising the legal age.

  • "I don't see why we allow an 18-year-old to be able to go in and buy an assault rifle," he said.

What we're watching: Persuading the Republican-controlled Utah Legislature to pass a gun control law will be no easy task for Kitchen.

  • He said he has yet to get to the "nuts and bolts" of the proposed legislation with his Republican colleagues.
  • "At the end of the day, it's our responsibility as lawmakers to protect our children to the best of our ability. If you can't consume alcohol until you're 21, if you can't buy tobacco until you're 21, there's no reason you should be able to walk into a gun store and buy an automatic rifle or what have you until you're 21," he said.

Senate President Stuart Adams in a statement said he hadn't seen a draft of the bill. He also referred to a similar 2018 law in California that banned the sale of semiautomatic rifles to people under 21 and was later overturned by a federal appeals court in May.

  • "Conceptually, there are some concerns," Adams said. "A similar bill in California was recently ruled unconstitutional by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. I encourage Sen. Kitchen to continue to have conversations with his colleagues regarding the best path forward as he develops the bill."
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