ST. GEORGE – A bill that would allow 18- to 20-year-olds to carry a concealed firearm passed the Utah House Tuesday following ardent debate. The primary argument for the bill is that it will give young adults a much better means of defending against sexual violence, particularly on college and university campuses.
House Bill 198, Concealed Carry Amendments, is sponsored by Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, and co-sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross. It passed 63-12 along party lines with all House Republicans voting for the bill and all House Democrats voting against it.
“A group of women who brought this idea to me want to be able to defend themselves from rape,” Lisonbee said as she introduced the bill to the House floor. “Because most college campuses do not allow open carry, 18-20-year-old adults cannot carry a weapon on most college campuses unless they obtain a conceal carry permit.”
The idea of allowing an 18-year-old access to a conceal permit didn’t sit well with House Democrats who voiced their opposition. Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, an associate professor of psychology at Salt Lake Community College, said the brains of 18-20-year-olds are still developing and have issues in the impulsivity department.
”It’s already scary on campus,” Kwan said, and added there are times she worries for her safety. Allowing 18-20-year-olds to conceal carry on campus would be more a potentially dangerous disruption to students and faculty than a benefit, she said.
Longtime high school educator Rep. Coral Moss, D-Holladay, echoed Kwan’s views on the lingering “impulsivity” issues of the 18-20-year-olds’ brain.
“They’re still kids in many ways,” Moss said. “I think it’s just beyond where we should be considering this …. This is just a step too far.”
Moss’ words were responded to by Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, who said, “A step too far is a completed rape.”
While introducing the bill, Lisonbee cited a study from the Justice Department that indicates 20-25 percent of college-age women will be victims of a completed or attempted forcible rape during their undergraduate careers. The study also estimates only 5 percent of those rapes are reported to police.
“Most recent studies with improved methodology are consistently showing that the more forcible the resistance, the lower the risk of a completed rape,” Lisonbee said, adding that putting a gun in the hands of young women who may face such a threat is “a woman’s best means of resistance.”
“The single most effective way to stop a completed rape is the use of a gun or a knife,” Coleman said.
What came next silenced the floor.
“I have a daughter who (is) my age when I was a statistic,” Coleman said, revealing that she was a sexual assault survivor.
Coleman later told The Salt Lake Tribune that she had been attacked in an attempted rape, yet hadn’t shared that information with anyone for 20 years due to fear. That changed Tuesday as she spoke in favor of the bill’s passing the House.
“My 19-year-old daughter looks at her five roommates and wonders statistically which one of them it’s going to be,” Coleman said. “So I teach her to avoid circumstances. I teach her self-awareness, some practices to be safe. But in the event she can’t avoid a rape, studies have shown … a woman’s best option is to resist with a gun in her hands.”
She asked the House to support the bill and to put “the best tool available” for protection in the hands of 18-20-year-olds.
Under the proposed law, those 18-20 could acquire a provisional conceal carry permit that is set to expire by their 21st birthday. In the case of 18-year-olds still in high school, the permit would not be valid on high school premises. Applicants for the permit must also provide “evidence of general familiarity with the types of firearms to be concealed.”
The bill’s language does not outline how the applicant would demonstrate the required firearms “familiarity” required if made law.
The bill now goes to the Utah Senate for consideration.
Southern Utah Reps. Walt Brooks, Merrill Nelson, Brad Last, John Westwood, Mike Noel, V. Lowry Snow and Jon Stanard each voted in favor of the House Bill 198.
- Read the bill: 2017 House Bill – Concealed Carry Amendments
- To contact your legislators:
- Southern Utah Sens. Ralph Okerlund, Don Ipson, Evan Vickers and David Hinkins | Listing of all senators.
- Southern Utah Reps. Walt Brooks, Merrill Nelson, Brad Last, John Westwood, Mike Noel, V. Lowry Snow and Jon Stanard | Listing of all members of the House of Representatives.
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