SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers revived a bill Wednesday that would allow concealed carry of guns without a permit, leaving critics shocked and disheartened.
HB237 initially failed on a tie vote in the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee last week. But sponsor Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, brought the bill back to the committee after discussing it with lawmakers and making a few minor amendments.
While the bill would allow concealed carry of firearms without a permit, it would prohibit people who have protective orders against them or who have been convicted of domestic violence from buying, owning or carrying guns.
Lawmakers voted 7-5 to forward the bill to the House floor, with two members present who were absent for the first vote.
"We're dismayed," Terri Gilfillan of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense said after the committee's vote. "It's irresponsible. Last week we gave very compelling testimony and it did not advance, but now it's back."
Anne Bagley, a survivor of the Trolley Square mass shooting in 2007 and a member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, testified against HB237 in the earlier committee hearing, worrying the bill would increase the dangers of gun violence.
"(It would) potentially allow dangerous people to easily carry concealed, loaded weapons in our state's public places, such as Trolley Square," Bagley said last week.
"As a mother and grandmother, I cannot fathom a system where there are no provisions to protect my children and grandchildren, one that allows people who have not passed a background check or proper training to carry loaded weapons around children and all of us," she said.
During that same meeting, domestic violence victim Heather Wosley urged lawmakers to support the bill, telling of how her ex-husband nearly killed her and abused her their six children.
When he was released from prison, Wolsey said she purchased a gun and carried it with her out of fear for her life, even though she didn't have a concealed carry permit.
"I broke the law because I carried it with me," she said tearfully. "I go home to six children, and everything I do goes toward them to raise them. I cannot stop mentally to take a four-hour class to have a permit to hide it in my purse to protect myself.
"I know full well if my ex finds me alone, I am dead. And I wake up with that every single day of my life," Wolsey said.
Perry said HB327 "isn't a gun control bill" but rather an effort to increase safety in the community.
"We see this as a win-win situation here" for both domestic violence victims and people wanting to carry for self-protection, he said.
Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said she couldn't support the bill.
"The connection to sexual assault and the connection to domestic violence, I don't see the relevance. I can't support legislation where I'm connecting violence with concealed carry," Romero said.
Rep. Kelly Miles, R-Ogden, also opposed the bill, worrying it would lead to more untrained people carrying guns.
Rep. Mike Winder, R-West Valley City, voted in support of the bill, saying the current law is "backward" to allow a person to open carry a gun without a permit, yet require a permit for hiding one.
Perry drafted HB327 after Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed legislation in 2013 that would have allowed carrying concealed guns without a permit, arguing Utah's current concealed carry permit system works well.
Herbert has said he would veto any identical proposals.