Let’s face it. In this country we have a love affair with guns.
Several bills this session highlight this gun obsession, but one in particular deserves more substantive consideration. HB76, sponsored by Rep. John Mathis (Vernal), otherwise known as Concealed Weapon Carry Amendments, would remove the need for a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon.
The bill was heard on Wednesday of this week in a packed committee room that was filled atypical committee visitors. There were kids, crying babies, unruly observers, and many, many people openly carrying weapons (no doubt many more with concealed weapons).
We are adamantly opposed to this bill for several reasons.
- First, the burden of obtaining a concealed carry permit in Utah is not difficult. In fact, we are known for the simplicity of our permit process, indicated by the large number of non-Utahns that elect to obtain their permits from Utah. Eliminating the permit will not impose an unnecessary restriction or burden on law-abiding citizens who are obtaining a concealed carry permit.
- Second, a background check is performed during the permit process. While it is true that a background check is performed when a gun is purchased from a registered dealer, it is important to note that there are thousands of gun transactions, every year, by individuals. These purchases do not include a background check or any change in registration information. If this bill becomes law, the almost 10,000 people since 2008 who have had their permits denied, revoked, or suspended, would now be able to legally carry. Anyone else feel uncomfortable with that?
- And the third and final reason (as if we needed more reasons) we believe this bill is bad for Utah is the change in open carry that would come with codification of this bill. It would allow anyone over 21 to carry, either concealed or openly, a weapon with the safety off and a round in the chamber. The current law does not allow an openly carried weapon to be ready to fire. Gun carriers are not allowed to have a round in the chamber and the gun is supposed to be holstered. This one-step-to-shoot change in the law is frightening at best and extremely dangerous at worst. The potential for accidental discharge increases significantly, especially without any of the training that comes with the concealed carry training. The potential for other “accidents” is profound.
There were several speakers both for and against the bill but it passed, easily, with a 7-2 vote. The only two dissenting votes were Representatives Arent and King.
HB76 now moves on to the House Floor, and, if passed, to the Senate. We can only hope that cooler (and saner) heads prevail along the way where there will be several more opportunities to amend it, or better yet, vote it down. Even the Governor dislikes this bill and believes the current laws are more than sufficient.
Legislators should focus on the real needs of Utahns like education funding, air quality and medicaid expansion, and stop posturing to the small minority of gun-loving extremists that are at odds with the majority of Utahns.