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Utah weapons permits a hot commodity, but are adequate checks in place?
Concealed weapons » Plan to curb out-of-state instructors rankles some, draws NRA opposition.

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Nevada stopped recognizing Utah permits a few years ago, saying standards for the Utah permit didn’t meet the Silver State’s requirements. New Mexico followed suit — although Utahns argue that was more about those states losing permit revenue.

Texas considered ending its permit reciprocity with Utah until the Legislature passed a bill sponsored by Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, in 2011 that now requires residents of states that issue a permit to get their home-state license before getting one from Utah.

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Changes proposed » There is an NRA-backed bill in the U.S. Congress — co-sponsored by Utah’s entire delegation — that would require any state to recognize a concealed-weapons permit issued by any other state. The measure passed the House in November but is not expected to get through the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, himself a concealed-weapons instructor, said that, if the instructors want to avoid changes, they need to start taking matters into their own hands.

"They need to start self-policing better," said Oda. "If they’ve got instructors they know aren’t doing the things they’re supposed to, they need to self-police better."

Oda said another option, rather than having students take a voluntary survey at the end of the course, would require them to fill out the survey before they can receive their permits. That would give BCI a more effective tool to flag bad instructors.

The most controversial proposal would be to require all instructors to be Utah residents. Oda said that would allow BCI to more closely monitor instructors and audit courses.

But hundreds of out-of-state instructors would be put out of business.

"It would just ruin it for us," said Byron Hibshman, a Southern California instructor who teaches the Utah course about once a month. He said the surveys in place now help BCI identify bad instructors and hopefully weed them out.

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Requiring instructors to be Utah residents "is not going to solve the problem. You can have a bad apple in Utah as well as out of Utah," Hibshman said. "[Utah instructors] just don’t want anyone else teaching the course."

Perry acknowledges the move would benefit the Utah instructors, but she sees no problem with the Utahns who have worked to make the state’s permit a sought-after commodity benefiting.

"I’m not going to deny that fact," she said. "But why is the gun industry different from any other industry? How many Utah industries do we have where we create a monopoly because it benefits Utah?"

The NRA opposes it and the Utah Shooting Sports Council, which had supported it in the past, withdrew its support and ousted Perry from the USSC board over her support for the residency requirement.

Oda said discussions are still ongoing with the NRA on the residency issue, and he doesn’t know if legislation will be introduced in the coming session. He said the No. 1 priority has to be making sure the Utah permit is protected for Utahns.

Those outside the state who want the permit are a secondary concern.

Aposhian, who stresses that he’s not speaking for USSC, said something needs to be done to keep those people who have the Utah permit from losing their ability to protect themselves.

"When these instructors, for the want of a buck — and I don’t care if they’re in-state or out-of-state — when they rubber-stamp, it affects something much, much bigger," said Aposhian. "They’re affecting the safety and security of every permit holder, not just those they teach. All 380,000."

gehrke@sltrib.comTwitter: @RobertGehrke

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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