OPINION – Gun owners throughout Utah are feeling encouraged over the passage of House Bill 76, also known as the Constitutional Carry Bill, which decisively passed in both the houses of the state legislature. Governor Herbert now must choose whether to sign the bill into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.
This bill would do away with the requirement for concealed firearm permits for law-abiding adults in Utah whether they choose to carry openly or concealed. But it differs from the same type of laws in Alaska, Arizona, Vermont, and Wyoming in that it requires that the firearm be technically unloaded; meaning at least two actions away from firing.
This requirement may seem like a trifling concession, but it effectively defeats the purpose of constitutional carry. And Utah gun owners would be wise to step back for a moment to consider some of its potential implications.
First and foremost, this requirement would increase, not reduce, the state’s power over gun owners. The state would still be imposing its subjective conditions on the exercise of what should be an unalienable right.
The beauty of the constitutional carry laws in these other states is that they treat the personal firearm, whether worn openly or concealed, as nothing more than a piece of lawfully owned private property. As long as the person isn’t committing a crime, there is no need for police to investigate them.
This allows police to stop worrying about the fact that someone is in possession of a firearm, and to instead focus on holding people accountable for actual criminal behavior that is causing harm.
Utah’s requirement that the firearm be legally unloaded creates a standard of compliance that invites greater — not less – police scrutiny of those who choose to carry.
If the more politicized police departments wish to discourage the carrying of personal firearms, all they need to do is stop every person who is carrying and check them for compliance. Those found carrying a loaded firearm without a permit could be considered criminals.
Far from restoring an unalienable right, the fatally flawed HB 76 strengthens the ongoing subjugation of gun owners who may only act with the state’s grudging permission.
This was not the intent of those state legislators who drafted and fought for this particular piece of legislation. Certain lawmakers, and the governor were the ones who pushed for the inclusion of the requirement that only those who hold a permit may carry a loaded firearm. This requirement was also supported by a number of concealed firearm permit trainers who view the permit system as their meal ticket.
In most political situations a degree of compromise is essential, lest the perfect become the enemy of the good. But any purported benefit to gun owners by HB 76 is negated by how it treats law abiding gun owners as mere subjects whose private property may only be possessed under conditions dictated by the state.
This is the type of scenario that Frederic Bastiat warned of in his essay “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen.” Most constitutional carry supporters are looking at the immediate visible effect without carefully considering the likely unforeseen consequences.
Bastiat quotes Chateaubriand as saying, “there are two consequences in history; an immediate one, which is instantly recognized, and one in the distance, which is not at first perceived. These consequences often contradict each other; the former are the results of our own limited wisdom, the latter, those of that wisdom which endures.”
The immediate effect of HB 76 is to create a degree of constitutional carry by allowing law abiding adults to legally carry openly or concealed with certain conditions attached. But the distant effects are those that we would be wise to consider. Could it cause more, rather than less, scrutiny of those who choose to carry a personal firearm? Does it still place the interests of the state above our inalienable right to self-defense?
Like a car buyer who, while filled with excitement, was pressured into signing on the dotted line and purchased a lemon, HB 76 may cause us serious buyer’s remorse down the road.
Instead of taking the crumbs that the state is currently willing to throw to us, gun owners would be better off to insist upon a constitutional carry law that more closely mirrors those of Arizona, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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