In 2013, then-Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature that would have allowed Utahns to carry concealed firearms without obtaining a permit. Since then, the gun lobby has not made a serious run at repealing Utah’s concealed carry permit requirement.
But with the election of a new governor, Rep. Walt Brooks has authored H.B. 60 to allow concealed carry of a firearm without a permit.
Utah’s concealed carry permit requirement represents a delicate balance by the Legislature between public safety and the desires of gun owners. That balance has worked for Utah for many years, but H.B. 60 would throw that balance out the window. As Herbert said in 2013, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
H.B. 60 purports to be a solution to a non-existent problem. To the contrary, permitless carry would actually harm public safety in Utah in at least four important ways.
First, H.B. 60 would eliminate the requirement for education on lawful use of force, which the Legislature wisely adopted. Former Rep. Curt Oda, a concealed carry permit instructor, testified before the Legislature several years ago on a different bill that “knowing the laws on when you can use deadly force is more important than proficiency.” This is particularly important in Utah where misunderstanding about what “stand your ground” does and does not allow can lead to tragedy.
Second, H.B. 60 would eliminate the requirement for education on suicide prevention. Suicide is a serious problem in Utah, which has the sixth-highest suicide rate in the United States. Half of Utah suicides are by gun and 84% of gun deaths in Utah are suicides.
Third, H.B. 60 would eliminate the requirement for training in the safe loading and unloading, storage and carrying of guns. Accidents happen, and people who conceal carry regularly are three times more likely to have their guns stolen and used in crime.
Fourth, H.B. 60 may slow down police officers in securing and processing a crime scene when a gun is involved. A permit facilitates validating legal gun possession at the scene.
Brooks claims that an American College of Surgeons study supports his case. However, that general study did not actually isolate the specific change that H.B. 60 proposes — eliminating the permit requirement for concealed-carry.
Moreover, the College of Surgeons’ study did not address suicide or unintentional death or injury from guns. When it comes to gun deaths, suicide is a far more serious problem in Utah than violent crime.
Not only would H.B. 60 harm public safety in Utah, it could also cost Utah $2.5 million a year in lost permit fees paid by Utah residents. Although H.B. 60 does not eliminate the permit system, why would Utah residents apply for or renew a permit if they can conceal carry for free?
So, whether you’re concerned about public safety or the public treasury (or both), permitless carry should be a non-starter.
Ed Rutan was the city attorney for Salt Lake City for 10 years until he retired in 2013. He is a member of the board of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah.