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Utah lawmaker unveils bill to drop need for permit to carry concealed gun

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Teachers practice during a concealed firearm permit “Safe to Learn, Safe to Teach” class in South Jordan Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. The classroom training was reserved for educators free of charge.

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker doesn’t think anyone over 21 needs to get a permit to carry a concealed firearm.

But while Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, on Wednesday unveiled HB472 that would allow Utahns who can lawfully possess a firearm to forgo the permitting processes to conceal carry, he admits he doesn’t expect it to pass.

“Being this late in the session, the bill is not going to make it through. My purpose is to get the bill language together for next year’s session,” Brooks told the Deseret News.

This is not the first time lawmakers have tried to dump the Utah law that requires someone to have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

The Legislature passed a bill in 2013 that would have dropped the requirement, but Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed the legislation, saying “it removes an existing provision of Utah law that those who carry a concealed weapon obtain a permit. Utah’s permitting system has been in place for decades, and in its current form for more than 15 years.”

In a letter explaining his decision to the Senate president and House speaker, Herbert said he had not received any credible evidence that Utah’s permit process puts a strain on the right to bear arms.

Herbert told reporters Thursday that Utah has been very friendly to Second Amendment rights for years. When asked whether he’d veto legislation again, Herbert reiterated that the state is doing well with the current laws.

“We have open carry throughout the state of Utah and we’ve evolved to a concealed carry permit, which has been almost universally accepted,” Herbert said. “We certainly don’t want to do away with that. I think it’s not asking too much for people to go through the program, the process of getting a concealed weapon permit.”

Brooks said he thinks the upcoming change in governor will make all of the difference in his legislation’s passage.

“The data shows other states that have done this show no increase in gun violence. Why put an additional barrier for law-abiding citizens when it does nothing to help public safety?” Brooks said.

Clark Aposhian, Utah Shooting Sports Council chairman, said the bill would make a very slight change to what is currently allowed in Utah.

“Literally the only thing that this would allow you to do is put a jacket on over a firearm that otherwise must be openly carried now,” Aposhian said, adding that carrying still wouldn’t be allowed in schools. “It’s not going to add really that much — it’s a tiny step legislatively. But a huge step in perception.”

Regarding the upcoming change in governor, Aposhian echoed Brooks remarks, saying gun rights lobbyists are “counting on” the change to help the bill’s success.

Ermiya Fanaeian, co-founder of March for Our Lives Utah, sent the Deseret News a statement on the legislation.

“The initiative to allow individuals to carry a concealed firearm without a permit is incredibly irresponsible. It is already incredibly easy for people all across America, and certainly including this state, to access firearms,” Fanaeian said. “The easy access to firearms without regulation and responsibility has largely been the cause of gun violence as we have continuously experienced it. To make it easier for individuals to access firearms, without ensuring of responsibility, will only add to this widespread issue of gun violence. It will not prevent it.”