A newly elected Utah lawmaker, Andrew Stoddard, believes that every gun owner should be responsible for their firearms and the harm they might inflict, whether they are in their possession or someone else’s. On Wednesday, lawmakers announced “Lauren’s Law” to address just that.
The law’s name is in memory of Lauren McCluskey, a student at the University of Utah who was murdered by Melvin Rowland, a man she briefly dated, with a gun he borrowed from a friend. McCluskey reportedly ended the month-long relationship after discovering that Rowland had lied about his age, name, and criminal past. Rowland was already a convicted felon on parole at the time, making it illegal for him to own a firearm, but there was nothing stopping him from using someone else’s gun. Had campus police reported McCluskey’s claims to law enforcement, Rowland would have been in direct violation of his parole and arrested immediately.
There were no ramifications for the man who loaned Rowland the gun because, according to campus police, he didn’t know about Rowland’s plans. Current law states that a gun owner cannot be prosecuted unless it can be proven that they intended to help someone commit a crime, or if it is proven that the owner knew it was illegal for the borrower to carry a gun. Unless prosecutors can prove this gun owner knew Roland was a convicted felon – and therefore prohibited from possessing a firearm – he will not be held accountable.
McCluskey’s mother, Washington University professor Jill McCluskey, believes the person who loaned Rowland the gun should be prosecuted. Last month, she tweeted, “It is a great responsibility to own a gun.”
Stoddard, a newly elected representative for the 44th District of Utah, agreed. When “Lauren’s Law” came across his desk, he decided it was time to try and hold gun owners who loan their firearms accountable. The law would also apply to guns that got into the wrong hands after not being securely stored. “It 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," Stoddard told The Salt Lake Tribune.
Stoddard believes that a consensus can be met despite the vast difference of opinions on gun control. “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,” he told the Tribune.
Stoddard has spent much of his career working with victims of domestic violence, and this bill is the third proposal he has introduced to expand Utah’s laws on the subject.