Law-abiding Utahns will be able to carry concealed, loaded guns in their cars without a permit as three new gun laws take effect today.
Many gun owners were unclear about whether their cars were an extension of their homes as far as carrying guns was concerned, and HB357 was drafted to help clarify the law, said Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council.
"No one is going to notice the changes," he said. "All these laws really did was clear up some interpretive issues, and we did some house cleaning to make them a little bit more easy to understand, and the laws now reflect the way that Utahns always believed was legal to carry."
The new law, drafted by Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, means anyone over the age of 18 can carry a loaded, concealed weapon anywhere in their vehicle, including the glove box, center console and in a zippered case. However, long guns, such as shotguns and rifles, still must be unloaded while in the gun rack.
The law makes for "bad public policy," said Steve Gunn, a member of the board for the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah.
"Guns can be stolen easily from cars, and there are people who, under this statute, would not be eligible to carry a concealed weapon who can carry them in their automobiles," he said, referring to the 21-year-old age requirement to be a concealed weapon permit holder. "Apparently the policy is to encourage as many people as possible to have easy access to a firearm."
The other gun law that takes effect today also addresses guns in cars. SB78, sponsored by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, requires private businesses to allow customers and employees to keep a gun in their cars if the firearm is secured in a lockbox or with a trigger lock. Employers may ban guns in their parking lots only if they create a fenced-off area or monitored storage lockers for those with weapons to use. The only exception is for businesses that fall under Department of Homeland Security rules that prevent weapons on premises.
"This strips so much power and authority from property owners," said Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, during debate on the bill. "The rights of the gun owner should not trump the rights of the property owner."
But Madsen sees the bill as striking a balance between property rights and Second Amendment rights.
A business owner's "power does not creep up under the carriage of the car and into the glove box or trunk to where you can tell that individual what they can or can't keep in their own personal property," Madsen said during the legislative session. "The business owner does not have the ability to control what happens in the private property of customers or employees."
HB357 » Allows law-abiding Utahns to carry a loaded, concealed weapon without a permit.
SB78 » Requires business owners to allow guns in visitor vehicles if the guns have a trigger lock or are in a locked box.
HB25 » Aligns Utah law with federal penalties for making a mistake in a gun transfer.