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Loaded Guns in Cars: There's no convincing reason to change the current ban

Published November 14, 2005 12:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah law prohibits most people from carrying loaded guns in their cars. Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, has prefiled a bill in the Legislature to change that. But the reasons for the change are not convincing, and the reasons for keeping the law as is are.

It seems fairly obvious why the law would discourage folks from packing loaded guns in their cars. An unloaded gun is safe. It can't misfire during handling or be fired accidentally by a child or someone else unfamiliar with the safe operation of firearms.

Within recent memory, one Utah child fatally shot another after he came across a loaded handgun that had been stored beneath the seat of a vehicle parked in a garage.

But Sen. Madsen and Charles Hardy, a member of Gun Owners of Utah, argue that people should be allowed to keep loaded guns in vehicles for self-defense.

The answer to that is they already can, if they have a concealed-carry permit, which exempts them from the ban on loaded firearms in vehicles.

The application, training and criminal background check required for a permit must not be too onerous, because more than 60,000 Utahns already have them.

This is a practical way to balance the competing interests of promoting firearm safety by prohibiting loaded guns in cars, on one hand, and allowing people to carry guns for self-defense on the other. What's more, the training and background check required for a concealed-carry permit help to ensure that the people who do pack heat have at least minimal training and are not criminals.

Hardy insists that Utah's 10 years of experience with its liberal concealed-carry law has proved that law-abiding citizens can be trusted to act responsibly. OK. But the people who have compiled that excellent record are the ones who have qualified for a permit.

Hardy also claims that the ban on loaded guns in vehicles makes people subject to technical violations. He says, for example, that an unloaded gun must also either be in plain view or securely encased, and that if a gun is stored in a soft-sided case that is not fully zippered, the gun is illegally concealed. But he also told a Tribune reporter that he knows of no case where a person was cited, arrested or charged for improperly storing a firearm in a vehicle.

So where's the problem?

Clearly, the existing laws work, and there's no compelling reason to change them.