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WEAPONS TASK FORCE PUSHES FOR TIGHTER GUN RESTRICTIONS

A task force charged with examining Utah's gun laws won't recommend legislators loosen the state's concealed-weapon code.

In fact, Utahns who want to carry a hidden handgun legally will have to jump through more hoops than before if lawmakers accept the group's recommendations.The State Weapons Task Force voted 9-3 Thursday to keep a provision currently in the law that requires applicants to prove they need to carry a concealed gun.

"That means we're not just going to give someone a gun because they say they need it. There has to be some proof there has been a threat and there is no other reasonable way for them to protect themselves," said Clyde Ormand, the state Department of Public Safety official who reviews applications.

Anti-violence groups found victory in the vote while proponents of change said the move was yet another example of government punishing law-abiding citizens.

"Criminals will have guns no matter what the law says," said state Sen. Alarik Myrin, who co-chairs the task force. "This just makes it tougher for law-abiding residents to defend themselves when needed."

The Utah Shooting Sports Council pushed for the changes, arguing self-defense should be the only reason trustworthy Utahns need to get a permit.

Opponents, led primarily by Utahns Against Gun Violence, said the change would put thousands of gun-toting citizens on the street who may be too tempted to reach for their weapons in times of conflict.

After two months of debate and testimony, the majority of the task force settled on the idea that the current law wasn't preventing anyone who really needed a hidden gun from legally carrying one.

"If people want a permit, they should ask for it. The process isn't that daunting," said member Mike Spanos.

About 1,300 Utahns now have a concealed weapons permit; state officials estimated between 8,000 and 20,000 would apply for permits if the need for cause was dropped.

Now that the "cause" issue is settled, lawmakers will consider whether to accept task force recommendations that would stiffen the remainder of the application process.

Currently, successful applicants must not have been convicted of a felony or any crime of violence or any crime involving alcohol or moral turpitude. In addition, under the proposed changes, a successful applicant must not have been convicted of any offense involving domestic violence.

The changes would also give the state authority to deny an applicant if officials simply "believe it is more likely than not" that the applicant has been or is likely to be a danger to self or others.