An act of common sense becomes an act of great courage when common sense is in short supply.
Gov. Gary Herbert’s decision to veto HB76, the bill that would have added Utah to a short list of states that allow people to carry concealed firearms without a permit, reflects the chief executive’s oft-stated motto that things that aren’t broken do not need to be fixed. But it also stands as an act of political courage coming, as it does, in a place and at a time when the paranoia of those who fear nothing so much as sensible restrictions on the use of firearms is so outspoken and powerful.
The governor’s action will be for naught, though, unless at least a few of the state lawmakers who voted for HB76 use this opportunity to think better of their decision. Such wisdom and courage is unlikely to be found in the same place, and from the same people who approved the unwise bill in the first place. So it will have to come from elsewhere.
Two years ago, the Legislature passed a bill that would have eviscerated the state’s exemplary open records law. Last year, it passed a bill that would have cut the guts out of what little sex education is offered in the state’s public schools. Both led to public outcries that saw both actions reversed, the first by a special session repeal, the second through a governor’s veto.
This year, a similar public demonstration will be necessary to keep the veto of HB76 standing.
All the arguments necessary are provided in the governor’s veto message. In that missive, Herbert outlines the highly reasonable point that the state’s long-time process for requiring, and issuing, concealed carry permits hardly constitutes an unfair or unconstitutional burden to the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Such permits are held by some 430,000 people, who only had to pass a background check and attend a class to obtain them. The process screens out only those who clearly, by any standard of civilized society, ought not be carrying weapons, concealed or otherwise, including acts or threats of violence, a felony record or finding of mental illness.
The flimsy argument put forward for the bill, that a rancher legally carrying a firearm for self-protection would suddenly find himself in violation of the law if his weapon were inadvertently covered by a raincoat, did not sway the governor. It was not persuasive to the many law enforcement agencies that opposed the bill, and it should not have convinced the Legislature.
Lawmakers have been given a second chance to do the right thing with HB76. It is a target they should not miss.
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