Law Enforcement Groups in Utah Are Divided Over Proposed Concealed Carry Bill
A proposed gun bill, which allows anyone 21 years or older to carry a concealed firearm in public without a permit and required education, is all but sure to pass during this legislative session in Utah.
Republican Rep. Walt Brooks from Washington County is the sponsor of House Bill 60. He said the current permit requirement is needless regulatory oversight because it does nothing to increase safety, decrease suicide or improve crime statistics. It eliminates gun owners' need to obtain a separate concealed carry permit, but it also allocates funds for additional gun safety training and suicide prevention.
However, the new concealed carry bill does not require safety training or a special permit.
Brooks said 19 states have similar un-permitted concealed carry gun laws. He said the data shows there are no impacts on gun safety, suicide, or crime when permits for concealed carry are no longer required. He said criminals are already carrying weapons without permits and that the average gun-owning citizen is responsible.
“It's not covering your gun that causes suicide,” Brooks said. “It’s not securing it properly when you’re in your home, which you already should do. So, a lot of people get upset about the gun issue, but this bill is not increasing the crime or making it easier to access or having more guns out there. Because you already can. But we're trying to make it so you can get better training to help people be safer.”
Brooks said the funds allocated in the bill have nothing to do with concealed carry training.
“We feel like we are going to be able to reach even more people to be able to train – and it's not about that,” he said. “It’s the people who have guns in their home. They leave it under their bed, or they leave it on the nightstand or whatever else and someone gets ahold of it and causes damage to themselves.”
The Law Enforcement Legislative Council is opposed to the bill. Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter is the President of the Utah Police Chiefs Association. Even with the added training component, he said the Chiefs Association does not support it.
“People can essentially conceal carry, meaning that they don't necessarily need the training, which I'm hugely opposed,” Carpenter said. “I just want to be clear on that. Unfortunately one of the things that we felt that we’re missing through concealed carry permits, we had upwards of 160,000 people receiving gun education on both suicide prevention and training as it pertains to gun safety in their homes.”
Representative Brooks said the Sheriff’s Association is supportive of the legislation, but that it was a compromise with the Chiefs association to convince lawmakers to add an education component to include suicide prevention and home safety training.
“The sheriffs were very adamant that this was a bill that they wanted to pass, and the chiefs alone would not be able to carry the day on this,” Brooks said. “We recognize this was going to pass with or without our vote, and so we felt like if you don't have a seat at the table, you're on the menu. So, we felt like you know let's get the training piece in there for suicide prevention and have some level of negotiation because originally there was no training in there at all.”
Carpenter said he supports Second Amendment rights to bear arms. He also believes adequate safety training, including an understanding of when deadly force is legal, is important for public safety.
“And we feel like there's individuals that don't even have the basic knowledge of when deadly force can be used,” he said. “Meaning a lot of individuals think deadly force can be used to protect property. They have to show that their health, safety and welfare is immediately in jeopardy.”
Summit County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Andrew Wright said the current process of permitting is one way to ensure people get the safety training needed. He said deputies are well-trained to deal with citizens whether they are armed or not.
“People are responsible when it comes to gun ownership, at least in our community,” Wright said. “No matter what laws or constitutional rights there are, we're never going to deal with the criminal element. If a criminal is used to carrying a concealed firearm as part of being who they are, they're going to continue to do that as they always have regardless of what laws are on the books.”
The Senate placed H.B. 60 on the second reading calendar on Monday.