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Utah lawmakers ended a requirement for a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Has anything really changed?

The new law hasn’t taken effect yet — and won’t until May 5.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Melanie Lewis, left, and Connie Peterson, both members of The Well-Armed Woman of Utah, Jordan Valley chapter gather at The Gun Vault shooting range in South Jordan for shooting practice in this March 23, 2018, file photo.

A shooting at a Millcreek convenience store this week has sparked a debate on social media about a change in Utah law allowing the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit.

On Monday, a dispute over a credit card allegedly prompted a customer to pull a gun and fire six shots at the clerk. No one was injured.

Several commenters on The Salt Lake Tribune’s Facebook page suggested the shooting may have been a byproduct of the change in Utah law. They surmised that no need for a concealed carry permit means more incentive to carry a gun and use it recklessly.

One big problem with that theory? The new law doesn’t take effect until May 5.

Here’s some background.

Utah became the 17th state to allow residents to carry concealed weapons without the need for a permit this year after HB60 sailed through the Utah Legislature. The bill made a small but significant change, eliminating the requirement that Utahns must obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The bill finally was signed into law by Gov. Spencer Cox after former Gov. Gary Herbert either vetoed or threatened to veto previous attempts.

Utah law already allows legal gun owners to carry a firearm openly in public, but they needed a permit if they wanted to hide that gun under a coat or in a purse. That requirement ends once the new law takes effect May 5.

So, what’s different?

“Nothing really has changed in how people can behave with a gun,” says St. George Republican Rep. Walt Brooks, who was the bill’s sponsor. “If you’re not legally allowed to have a firearm, then this doesn’t change anything.”

Brooks says the change in the law does not allow people to brandish weapons or show them off in public.

“Everything else is the same,” he says.

Why does Utah still have a concealed carry permit if residents don’t need one anymore?

That’s only for Utahns inside the state borders. If they want to carry a concealed weapon in other states, they’ll still need to get a permit. More than half the people who apply for concealed carry permits in Utah are from other states, many of which honor permits from the Beehive State.

Brooks and other backers of the new law are so confident that there will still be high demand for the Utah permit that the new law moves millions of dollars from the fees generated from permit applications into a new fund dedicated to suicide prevention. Legislative attorneys estimate that will be $2 million in the first year with at least $1 million annually in following years.

What about gun safety?

Contrary to popular belief, the application process for a Utah concealed carry permit does not involve any training on how to use, or shoot, a firearm.

Applicants are required to take a class to get the permit, but weapons training is not a part of the curriculum. Instead, the classes mostly cover learning about gun laws. State law also requires applicants take a firearms familiarity course in which they are supposed to prove they can safely load, unload and store a gun.

During the legislative debate over the bill, Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, says gun owners have a moral — if not a legal — responsibility to get training on how to use their weapons.

“It’s my duty to get trained on my firearm if I’m going to carry it around either openly or concealed,” he says. Anderegg holds a concealed carry permit.

Will it lead to more guns on the streets?

Maybe, but most of those guns will have been purchased legally.

“A person who is going to use a firearm to commit a crime is not a person concerned about lawfully concealing or carrying a firearm,” says Jeremy Roberts, who worked with Brooks to craft the bill. “This law addresses lawful people carrying a firearm for a lawful purpose.”

Utah gun sales are already breaking records. The number of criminal background checks for firearm purchases nearly doubled in Utah the past year. That mirrors national trends showing gun sales are at all-time highs.

Will there be more crime or violence as a result of the change?

Brooks says he doesn’t think so.

“I’ve had several calls from people asking me about this, especially after the shootings in Boulder [Colo.] and Atlanta,” he says. “Those were not concealed weapons.”

He adds, “If someone is going to commit a crime, they’re really not going to worry if their coat is over their gun.”

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