Simply carrying a gun after drinking one beer or one glass of wine soon will be a crime in one American state.
That’s because a new law in Utah cracking down on drunk driving also might, by extension, restrict gun rights in the state.
A new law, HB 155, lowers the blood alcohol limit for driving in Utah from .08 percent to .05 percent, making it the toughest such law in the nation, The Washington Post reported. The lowest threshold in other states is .08.
Governor Gary R. Herbert signed the measure into law on March 23 despite opposition from the restaurant, alcohol and tourism industries, as well as from some gun rights groups.
The new law, combined with another part of Utah criminal code, has a major impact on gun owners.
Section 528 of Title 76 and Chapter 10 of the Utah Criminal Code states: “Any person who carries a dangerous weapon while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance … is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.”
“Under the influence” is now defined as .05 percent.
“To understand how low this limit is, consider that a 100-pound woman would most likely reach this level after one beer and as such would be unable to carry a hunting knife, firearm, or even a stun gun,” a statement from the Utah Shooting Sports Council (USSC) reads. The USSC urged Herbert to veto the law. “… The restrictions on carrying a dangerous weapon would apply at all times and everywhere including your home.”
USCC emphasized that it “is not good practice to be shooting while drinking, nor do we believe that one should be allowed to carry a firearm while drunk.”
“However, there is a big difference between actively shooting a firearm while drunk and simply carrying a firearm or hunting knife when one has had a beer,” USCC said. “We believe that a person should not lose the ability to exercise their right of self-defense for having a small amount of alcohol in their system.”
The American Beverage Institute ran an ad in some newspapers reading, “Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation.”
Similar laws eventually may spread. The Post reported that bills lowering the blood alcohol level to .05 percent were proposed in Washington state and Hawaii but failed.
Herbert did not address the gun issue but pointed to a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism that found, “A large body of creditable research over many years has clearly shown that impairment of tasks necessary for safe driving begins at levels as low as 0.05 percent.”
France, Italy, Russia and Australia all have .05 limits.
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