Back in October, student Lauren McCluskey’s death ignited interest in how Utah communities may prevent similar incidents in the future. Andrew Studdard, a newly elected lawmaker, proposed a new law referred to as “Lauren’s Law” in order to hold owners of guns responsible for what happens with their guns.
Melvin Rowland shot and killed McCluskey in her car with a borrowed gun because he could not legally obtain one on his own. Rowland then killed himself. The friend who he borrowed the gun from was not held responsible by police as they claimed that he had no knowledge of Rowland’s plans and was therefore unlikely to be charged. Yet Rowland was under parole, and if police had been notified that he had a gun, then he would have been jailed.
McCluskey’s mother, Jill McCluskey, tweeted that “the person who lent Lauren’s killer the gun needs to be prosecuted. It is a great responsibility to own a gun,” showing her belief that the person who loaned Rowland the firearm should also be held responsible for Lauren’s death. Utah lawmakers are now showing similar beliefs as they draft this new bill.
Current Utah law only allows for the owner of a gun to be held responsible for a death if they were directly involved in it or had prior knowledge of what happened. Prosecutors must have proof of this involvement or knowledge in order to press charges. “Lauren’s Law” will make those who own a gun more responsible for actions taken with the firearm. Andrew Studdard told the Salt Lake Tribune, “I think right now there’s really a consensus that people who own guns, people who don’t, they’re all for responsible gun ownership.”
Stoddard also believes “[the law] will make people think twice before they loan their gun to someone else, or don’t leave it in a safe, or leave it in their car.” The law would not apply to those whose guns were stolen or used in self-defense. It only applies when a gun is willingly and knowingly given to someone who has no legal ownership of that gun. The law, however, will also apply to those whose guns are somewhere that others have access to, like a safe or a car. This is to encourage people to lock up their firearms more securely.
The purpose of drafting this law is to cut back on the number of domestic violence-related deaths in Utah, which accounted for the most deaths last year. Lawmakers are trying to put measures in place to help others in similar situations to McCluskey and make it harder for those with dangerous intentions to get a hold of a gun.
For now, this is simply a proposal draft for a future law. Nothing has yet been filed but it may become a new Utah law in the future. It would mean that gun owners should be more selective about who they loan their gun to and maybe even not doing so at all. Lawmakers are hopeful that this law will cut down on domestic violence and other preventable, gun-related deaths.