Southern Utah lawmaker proposes bill allowing Utahns to carry a concealed firearm without a permit

Stock photo, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A bill authored by a Southern Utah legislator would allow individuals over the age of 21 to carry a concealed firearm without a permit.

Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, speaking on the House floor of the Utah Legislature, Salt Lake City, Feb. 14, 2018 | File photo courtesy of the Utah Legislature, St. George News

Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, introduced HB 472, Conceal Carry Firearms Amendments, last week even though he said he had no intention of seeing it pass this year, especially so close to the end of the legislative session this week.

Even if it did survive the Legislature, there was the likelihood of the governor vetoing the bill as he had done with a similar bill seven years ago.

“Since it can’t go through (this year), I thought it best to start building support, get people to talk to the gubernatorial candidates about their positions and start spreading awareness,” Brooks said Monday.

Currently, Utah requires a gun owner to have a state-issued permit to be able to carry a concealed firearm. The state also allows someone to open-carry, meaning they can have a firearm on their person as long as it isn’t concealed.

Though Brooks referred to the practice proposed by his bill as “permitless carry,” it is also widely known as “constitutional carry.”

A similar permitless carry bill passed the Legislature in 2013, but was subsequently vetoed by Gov. Gary Herbert.

At the time, Herbert wrote in his letter vetoing the bill that gun owners and Utahns in general benefit from concealed firearms carriers receiving and understanding information taught through state-approved instructors prior to getting a permit.

A permitless carry law would do away with that requirement, Herbert wrote.

A permit may also be denied to certain individuals through a background check, the governor wrote. The 2013 bill would have allowed for anyone to conceal carry without first going through such a procedure.

In this May 30, 2019, file photo, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert speaks during a conference in Salt Lake City. | Photo by Rick Bowmer, Associated Press, St. George News

“Utah has been, and will continue to be, well served by the screening function of its concealed firearm permit system,” Herbert wrote.

At the time the original bill was vetoed, only a few states allowed people to carry concealed firearms without a permit, Brooks said. Today there are several, he said.

According to World Population Review, there are 11 states which currently allow this, including Alaska, Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The impacts of permitless carrying in those states can be analyzed, which Brooks claims have been positive.

“We have the data,” he said. “It’s not a guess.”

The concept of permitless carry legislation has been in the works for a long time, and even if it didn’t stand a chance this year, next year it might.

“I just don’t see the benefit of putting up a barrier between law-abiding citizens and their being able to carry a gun for their protection,” Brooks said.

For now, people can review the legislation’s language and see what they think of it while also learning about what other states have done, Brooks said.

“Now we can build support and show the data,” he said.

For a complete list of contacts for Southern Utah representatives and senators, click here.

Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2020 Utah Legislature here.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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