The question of how much, if any, firearms training and requirements should be imposed on Utahns who carry a concealed weapon triggered another argument Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

Firearms training came up during the Legislature's interim day in the wake of an unsuccessful attempt during the 2004 general session to beef up Utah's requirements for concealed weapons permit holders.

Pro-gun groups told members of the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee that statistically, training and other regulations for permit holders have little practical effect in preventing mishaps or the misuse of a firearm.

Leonard Wojcik, an instructor and representative from the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said few gun owners seeking a concealed carry permit take him up on the offer to participate in live fire training.

When people make the decision to carry a concealed weapon, it is usually because they are seasoned gun owners already schooled in handling a weapon, he said.

Another advocate, Scott Engen with Gun Owners of Utah, said the requirements should be abandoned.

"You talk of getting government off the back of citizens, this is a way to do that," he said, noting that the mechanical complexity of handling a firearm is not that much more complicated than using a stapler.

Some committee members strongly disagreed.

"The consequence of handling those two instruments doesn't even compare," said Sen. Paula Julander, D-Salt Lake City.

Marla Kennedy, executive director of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah, said despite the claims to the contrary, nobody be can be sure of the adequacy of training because there is no oversight of the instructors.

Also, it is impossible to produce a review based on the students' actions after getting a permit because their names are not public.

"The truth is we don't know if there are good instructors or bad instructors. No one oversees that. Don't you think this is something we should be tracking?"

While gun advocates may have pointed out there have been "extraordinarily" few incidences involving people who carry concealed weapons, Kennedy said it is impossible to challenge that statistic because no one knows who those permit holders are.

Of the 46 states across the country with varying regulations on concealed carry permit holders, a National Rifle Association spokesman said the diversity of regulations bear little difference in the frequency of accidents or the illegal use of deadly force.

Moreover, Brian Judy pointed out, states such as Alaska and Vermont — which have no rules governing concealed weapons holders at all — do not have more gun-related problems.

"I have not heard of any training-related problems in the 46 states," he said.

Judy, in fact, said the Legislature, if anything, should consider reducing its requirements since they serve little purpose.

"Really I believe the mandates should be reduced," he said, with Utah turning instead to the "progressive" Northwest in dropping its training requirements.

As it stands, Utahns who want to legally carry a concealed firearm must go to a certified instructor who has either received firearms instruction training through the NRA, a police department or the military.

Instructors submit a lesson plan to the state's Bureau of Criminal Identification, which must approve of the instruction and "certify" the instructor.

Instruction must include safe handling, safe storage, when it is appropriate to use the weapon in self defense and a review of Utah's laws governing firearms. Instructors must teach about safe handling and safe storage, and must tell when it is appropriate to use a weapon in self-defense. A review of Utah's firearms laws is also required. It Instruction does not include a "live" fire component in which students are required to actually fire their weapon.

Members of the committee came to no conclusions but will likely revisit the issue in the coming months.


E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com