HB 115: Dangerous Weapon Custodian Liability

The Utah Firearms Association OPPOSES this Bill.

This bill is currently in our Bill Tracker. You can monitor it’s status from there. The full body of the bill can be viewed on the le.utah.gov site here.

  • To email, SMS or call your representative about this bill, find your legislator’s contact information here at le.utah.gov.
  • To contact the bill sponsor, Representative Stoddard, email astoddard@le.utah.gov, or call or text 385-256-3281.


This bill looks to create new legal conditions criminalizing the firearm owner or custodian in the event that a firearm is entrusted, then used criminally, by another party. It uses language that also suggests it doubles as a “safe-storage requirement” as well, described below.

Simply put: in the event you entrust a firearm to someone, and that person commits a crime, you may be held liable under this new statute.

The Utah Firearms Association vehemently opposes this proposed regulation, as it shifts liability from the individual committing the crime to the individual who owned the implement. We also strongly oppose it on grounds of it’s language that looks to criminalize possession of firearms by minors, and suspect language that would create a backdoor “safe storage” regulation.

We go into detail on these issues below.

De-Facto Safe Storage Law

As mentioned above, this bill has no shortage of problematic suggestions. This proposed stanza states that:

(b) storing or placing a firearm in an open and unsecured manner that allows the firearm to be plainly visible and accessible to another individual.

Meaning, even if you leave a firearm accessible (with no definition of what “open and unsecured” is) and it is then used in a negligent or criminal manner, you may also be held liable for the actions of that individual.

It is our belief that the responsibility for proper storage of the firearm is both flexible and determined per individual; everyone’s needs are different, and subsequently should be addressed on a case-by-case basis, in the manner that best meets the individual’s requirement(s).

No Guns for Minors

This bill also criminalizes entrusting a firearm to a minor, as shown here:

(c) “Unfit individual” means an individual unfit to possess a dangerous weapon due to
31     the individual’s:
33          (ii) status as a minor;

Gun ownership is a traditional rite of passage for American families in households across the country, and certainly including Utah. Looking to criminalize entrusting a firearm to a minor is not only against existing law–it is not illegal for a minor to be in control of a firearm, even pistols under certain circumstances–and criminalizing this is frankly criminal, and not only goes against good sense and existing law, but deeply-rooted cultural tradition.

It is our view that the best way to avoid accidents and misuse of firearms by minors is through education; prohibition only creates fear and a taboo.

Proving Innocence versus Guilt

Like so many modern attempts at “gun control,” this bill seeks to flip our justice system upside down and require that a defendant party prove innocence, instead of having a plaintiff prove guilt:

  (4) It is a defense to liability under this section if the firearm custodian demonstrates,
51     by clear and convincing evidence, that the firearm custodian:
52          (a) entrusted the firearm custodian’s firearm to an individual with whom the firearm
53     custodian had a personal relationship; and
54          (b) had no reason to suspect that the individual to whom the firearm custodian
55     entrusted the firearm would use the firearm to cause injury or harm to the individual or to
56     unlawfully cause injury or harm to another individual.

This is the second time Representative Stoddard has attempted to run this bill, supposedly in response to the awful circumstances around the murder of Lauren McCluskey by a ruthless and hardened criminal. Our heartfelt condolences still go out to her surviving family, and we firmly believe that the murderer should face the maximum penalty possible under current law; we also believe that this shows how especially important firearms ownership, in addition to other good-sense skills, can provide women with a powerful equalizer against would-be attackers, and we strongly advocate for the training and armament of women to deter and defend against would-be attackers.

If you or a woman in your life is interested in learning how to defend themselves effectively with a firearm, we highly recommend reaching out to The Well Armed Woman and finding a local chapter near you.