Utah GOP will now allow concealed carry guns at state convention during Ron DeSantis’ keynote appearance

The Utah Republican Party softened its stance on Tuesday and will allow those with a concealed firearms permit to attend the Florida governor’s address at the state GOP convention while armed.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is applauded after taking the stage to address The American Legislative Exchange Council annual meeting July 28, 2021 at The Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. The Utah GOP is employing magnetometers at its state convention as part of enhanced security surrounding DeSantis' speech later this month.

Attendees at the Utah Republican Party State Convention in Orem later this month must pass through metal detectors and have their bags searched as part of enhanced security measures being implemented for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ keynote speech. But, that extra security won’t apply to GOP delegates who want to bring their guns with them, so long as they have a valid concealed carry permit.

Hours after this story was first published Tuesday morning, reporting that Utah GOP Chairman Carson Jorgensen said magnetometers would be in use at the Utah Valley University’s UCCU Center for the April 22 convention as part of stepped-up security for DeSantis’ appearance, Jorgensen told The Salt Lake Tribune that those with a valid concealed carry permit would now be allowed to bring their firearms into the venue.

“In the current political climate, we felt the need to be thorough in our security for this event,” Jorgensen said Monday. Planned magnetometers and bag searches for attendees would still be in place at the event, he added Tuesday.

The party chairman said the plan to use magnetometers at the convention was a mutual decision between the Utah GOP and DeSantis’ representatives. He pointed to the use of magnetometers at November’s U.S. Senate debate between Mike Lee and Evan McMullin, which also took place at UVU.

“We felt the best practice is to err on the side of caution,” Jorgensen added, noting Tuesday that the “mag and bag” security measures would still serve as an effective deterrent, despite the exception for concealed carry permit holders.

This is not the first time guns have been prohibited at an event featuring DeSantis. Firearms were banned at several conservative events where DeSantis spoke last summer, Insider reported. According to The Washington Post, his team wanted weapons banned from his election-night celebration in Tampa last year but took steps to avoid political blowback from the move.

Gov. DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request for comment.

Weapons are already banned at the UCCU Center, along with balloons, fireworks and umbrellas. Arena officials say they typically use magnetometers for large events like concerts and commencement ceremonies.

Current Utah law allows anyone to have a concealed firearm in most public places with or without a permit, but there are some exceptions. A valid permit is required to possess a concealed weapon on college campuses.

To get a concealed carry permit in Utah, applicants must be 21 years old and submit to a criminal background check. There is some required training to obtain a permit, but that only covers how to safely load, unload, store and carry a firearm. There is no required instruction on the use of a weapon.

The Utah GOP convention is one of several out-of-state speaking engagements for DeSantis ahead of the expected launch of his 2024 presidential bid. He is reportedly set to visit Ohio and New Hampshire later this month and will head to Texas for a fundraiser after he speaks in Utah.

[READ: Utah lawmakers say they want to protect kids. Here are the gun laws the Legislature did — and didn’t — pass.]

The Utah Republican Party platform supports the “constitutionally-protected right of the people to keep and bear arms” for self-defense and encourages personal responsibility when using firearms.

This is the first time in recent memory that magnetometers will be used at a Utah GOP convention. The devices were not part of the security plan for previous high-profile speakers, including Sen. John McCain in 2007 and then-GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney in 2010.

Update, 12:30 p.m. • This story was updated Tuesday after the Utah Republican Party softened its stance on firearms at the state connection.