Two bills before the Utah legislature could radically change Utah gun owners’ ability to carry a firearm almost anywhere — and prevent anyone from enforcing federal gun laws in Utah.
Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, sponsor of HB0076, said the goal of the bill is to bring clarity to the patchwork of gun laws existing in Utah today.
The bill allows anyone who can legally possess a firearm to carry it open or concealed without a concealed weapons permit.
Mathis said the bill would not change who can carry a concealed weapon, what type of weapon he or she may carry or when or where he or she may carry it.
“The only change is how they may carry,” Mathis said, “That’s what this bill does. You’ll be able to carry concealed beyond your home, property or vehicle, work or hunting.”
Mathis said right now in Utah the lifestyle of gun owners without a concealed carry weapon permit is restricted and this bill would change that.
“It will give gun owners the assurance that they can do mundane things like untuck their shirt, put on a jacket or get out of their vehicle while running errands around town without risk of becoming a criminal for merely carrying a firearm in the wrong condition,” Mathis said.
The bill, which the House passed and now is going before the Senate, would make obtaining a concealed carry permit unnecessary unless someone wants to carry a weapon outside of Utah or into a school.
Maryann Martindale, executive director of the Alliance for a Better Utah, said the legislation that has been passed is a serious setback in reducing gun violence.
“The state legislature heard a series of bills today that seriously infringe upon the right of Utahns to live safe, productive and meaningful lives,” Martindale said.
“If Utah is going to be instrumental in reducing gun violence throughout America, then we must have reasoned, productive discussions about gun safety and gun regulation before we pass legislation,” Martindale said. “Arming ourselves Wild-West style will not make Utah a safer place.”
Another bill adding to Utah’s gun control conversation is HB0114, the Second Amendment Preservation Act, is currently being held in the House Judiciary committee.
The bill declares the regulation of firearms is reserved completely to the state and provides penalties for the prosecution of anyone attempting to enforce federal laws to the contrary.
Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, the sponsor of HB0114 said the bill is not necessarily a firearms bill but it is a state jurisdiction bill.
“It’s not an attempt to eliminate common sense regulations,” Greene said. “It is not motivated by anti-federal government sentiment or by a desire to arrest federal officers and it’s not an effort to control activities or laws outside of Utah.”
Greene said the bill is not an attempt to proliferate the ownership of firearms and it doesn’t deny that our nation has a serious violence problem that needs to be addressed.
“What it is, is a reaffirmation of state sovereignty and individual liberty and an effort to establish clear jurisdictional lines across which we’ll not as a state tolerate federal intrusion,” he said.
Green said after the Newtown tragedy in December, President Barack Obama held meetings with interest groups including the National Rifle Association and the entertainment industry. Green said the states need to be heard as well.
“Where was the states’ voice in those discussions, pertaining to a matter that is inextricably intertwined with state jurisdiction? It was absent,” Green said. “So if the federal government isn’t going to engage with the states in legislating mandates nationwide, then we as states have a duty to make our voice heard.”