Proposed bill would allow carrying handguns without permit

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A bill before the Utah legislature would make it legal for almost anyone over the age of 21 to carry a concealed handgun without a permit.

Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, is supporting H.B. 76, which would allow almost anyone older than 21 to carry a weapon.

Clark Aposhian, president of Utah Shooting Sport Council, demonstrates with a plastic gun, rear, while Joanna Baginska, a fourth-grade teacher from Odyssey Charted School, in American Fork, Utah, aims a 40 cal. (AP Photo)

If passed, Utah would become a “constitutional carry” state like Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming. In these states carrying a weapon isn’t restricted by law .

Weapons would still not be allowed on school premises, including places of higher education. The penalty of violating that would be a misdemeanor.

People under the influence of drugs or alcohol would also not be legally able to carry a weapon.

Provo Police Department chief Rick Gregory discussed possible plans to prevent local gun violence in December after the Newtown massacre.

“Disarming good citizens is not the answer,” Gregory said. “I think the real issue here is keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have guns. I think the real issue here is stopping the violence.”

Earl Fry, political science professor, says although the homicide rate in the United States is at a 50-year low, the United States gun murder rate is about 20 times higher than in other countries in the developed world.

“When it comes to allowing someone to carry a concealed weapon without a background check,” Fry said,” I think we’re asking for trouble.”

Hannah Wheelwright, co-president of BYU Democrats, says it is in the public interest to protect people from gun violence as much as it is in the public interest to not infringe on someone’s rights to own a gun.

“I don’t know why we need to make it easier for people to carry around guns,” Wheelwright said.

She says after the two tragedies in Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn., a conversation about gun violence and the effects of guns in our community should take place, but more guns should not be made available.

“Having a gun is the most likely indicator that you will experience gun violence,” Wheelwright said.

Other lawmakers are also seeking to make carrying a gun an option for more people, even openly.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, is reintroducing a bill that is intended to protect rights of gun owners. The bill, H.B. 268, would change the law so that someone openly carrying a firearm in public could not be charged for disorderly conduct unless they were doing something threatening.

The proposals of these two Utah lawmakers would make changes opposite to what President Barack Obama wants to accomplish with the 23 executive orders he announced on Jan. 16, which include background checks and mental competency checks for potential gun buyers.

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