(KUTV) – The American Beverage Institute, a national group that lobbies on behalf of restaurants, took out a full-page ad in the Salt Lake Tribune to call out Utah Rep. Norman Thurston who spearheaded efforts to pass the state’s new DUI law.
“Norm Thurston’s .05 Hypocrisy,” is a subtitle in the ad.
The ad questions why Thurston would think driving with a blood-alcohol level of .05 is illegal while saying it’s ok for a drunk person to carry a gun.
“This is just a desperate group trying to revive an old issue,” said Thurston of the ad.
The lawmaker from Provo said his new bill, House Bill 328, only seeks to make adjustments to the new DUI law.
He said before the state lowered the legal blood alcohol level to .05 from .08, drunk people couldn’t have guns on their person and they still can’t.
In fact, he said, his new bill says police officers should be included in the restriction from drinking and carrying a gun.
But Thurston’s new bill seems contradictory, making an exception for drunk people who want to defend themselves or others from harm.
He said even if you are legally drunk, you should be able to shoot your gun if you or someone else is in danger.
“The Constitution guarantees people the right to self-defense,” he said.
He cited hypothetical examples of people drinking, then going to bed and having to get up and shoot an intruder. Or perhaps someone gets drunk, then is attacked by another person but has to use a gun to fend off the attacker.
Doug Hofeling, COO of Squatters and Wasatch Beers, the Utah beverage and restaurant community fought the new DUI bill but had nothing to do with the recent ad. Still, he understands it’s message.
“Representative Thurston has made it his mission to make us look dumb,” he said referring to what he says is the damage inflicted to the state of Utah’s image since the new DUI law.
Hofeling said during talks that led to the .05 law, Thurston promised there would be changes to the law to make it fairer to drivers, who many feel can safely operate cars with a blood alcohol level of .05.
Changing the law to make it easier to use a gun while drunk, is not a change that Hofeling ever saw coming.
He wonders who Representative Thurston is really representing.
Thurston said he introduced amendments to the DUI bill at the request of “stakeholders” including the restaurants.
Hofeling said he doesn’t understand why marrying gun rights with the new alcohol law is necessary.
“I think with everything going on in the country, what we’ve been through in Florida, does Utah need to be on the forefront of drunk shooters?”, he said.