Utah Legislature bill would allow open carry of guns
Simply carrying a weapon out in the open wouldn't be enough for a local municipality to charge a person with disorderly conduct, according to a bill that passed out of a House Committee Monday afternoon.
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, sponsored HB49 and said it was a way to ensure a uniform approach to protect gun rights and avoid confusion among law enforcement and local governments that are unclear as to what could be charged as disorderly conduct.
"Just because I'm carrying the gun, they can't give me a disorderly conduct [charge]," Ray said. "If I'm acting in a threatening way, they certainly can."
Ray's bill was supposed to be heard last week, but was subject to changes after it was feared the language was overly broad. And Lincoln Shurtz, legislative director for the Utah League of Cities and Towns, feared the revised version still left open the possibility that municipalities would have to come to the Legislature every time they wanted to write a gun ordinance.
But Curt Oda, chairman of the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, disagreed.
"I don't read it that way," Oda said.
The bill was opposed by the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City and the Utah Gun Violence Prevention Center both of which believed the law expanded a culture of violence in the state.
Jean Hill, government liaison for the archdiocese, said if a person wore a threatening shirt coupled with displaying open weapons, that could cause people to be unsure as to whether to call law enforcement because they weren't sure whether they should feel threatened.
"It's not a fashion accessory and not something that should be visibly carried," Hill said.
However, Zachary Wellman, a wiry 31-year-old who testified with a .45 caliber handgun holstered on his hip, said the law was important to have so he could feel safe and not be harassed by law enforcement officers who viewed his guns as a threat.
"It's important to stand up for our rights," he said.
The committee passed the bill 10-3 over the objections of Reps. Jennifer Seelig, Patrice Arent and Minority Leader David Litvack.