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Poll: Utahns oppose carrying concealed gun without permit

Utahns overwhelmingly oppose being allowed to carry a concealed weapon in public without a permit, a new poll shows.
Utahns overwhelmingly oppose being allowed to carry a concealed weapon in public without a permit, a new poll shows.
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SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns overwhelmingly oppose being allowed to carry a concealed weapon in public without a permit, a new poll shows.

UtahPolicy.com conducted the poll as Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, intends to introduce a so-called "constitutional carry" bill in the 2017 Legislature, a controversial proposal that has failed to become law the past few years.

The Dan Jones & Associates survey found 75 percent of Utahns definitely or probably believe adults in the state should not be allowed to carry a concealed weapon unless they have a state-issued permit. The poll found 24 percent say a concealed weapons permit should not be required.

Perry, a Utah Highway Patrol lieutenant, said he doesn't doubt the accuracy of the poll. But he said when he points out that people can already openly carry a gun in Utah, most don't have a problem with them being allowed to cover it with a shirt or jacket.

Under his proposal, barring any other violations, it wouldn't be a crime to cover the gun when it could legally be carried openly, he said.

"I think when people hear that, they go, 'That makes sense to me. I'd rather a person, when they walk into the McDonald's or the Maverik, put their shirt or coat over the gun and I don't have to see their gun if they do that,'" Perry said.

Perry said his bill would not eliminate Utah's concealed weapons permit, which requires a background check and a firearms safety course. He said he encourages Utahns to continue to get permits because the program provides training and is cost-effective for those who choose to buy guns in the state.

Eleven states — including Wyoming, Idaho and Arizona — have passed similar laws.

"Most of the people who own guns, especially handguns, that are law-abiding citizens, get the training, they get the experience," he said. "Honestly, this law it's going to change it for a few people because there are some that choose not to get the permit."

Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said the state's current concealed carry permit system is adequate and could even be improved with some enhanced training requirements. Utah's gun laws, he said, are "quite liberal" compared to the rest of the country.

"To take it one step further, I don't see the need. Just because you can doesn't mean you should," Winder said on KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show."

Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said on the radio show that Utahns don't understand how close the state already is to what he calls "common sense" carry.

"This is not a huge step. This is a tiny, tiny step," he said, noting people can carry loaded guns in the car under Utah law.

According to the poll, both people who identified as Republicans and Democrats oppose changing the law, though the opposition is stronger among Democrats.

The only demographic group that favors allowing carrying a concealed firearm without a permit are those who self-identified as tea party followers. The poll showed 58 percent say no permit should be required, while 37 percent don't want to change the law.

Republican legislators have proposed "constitutional carry" bills for the past several years, drawing opposition from Democrats, anti-gun violence advocates, the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese and law enforcement officials.

Last year, Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, decided to shelve his bill after GOP Senate leaders didn't show much interest in advancing the legislation during the deadly standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

The Senate approved the same bill Hinkins ran in 2015, but it didn't get through the House.

The 2013 Legislature passed a constitutional carry bill, but it didn't survive Gov. Gary Herbert's veto pen. Herbert cited police concerns that the law would make dramatic changes in the state's permit system.