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Senate panel makes minor change before OK’ing end to concealed carry gun permits

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Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, sponsor of HB60, speaks to members of the House Judiciary Standing Committee at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. His bill to remove the requirement for Utahns over the age of 21 to have a permit to carry a concealed firearm was heard in a Senate committee on Friday.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Carrying a concealed gun without a permit moved a step closer to reality in Utah Friday after a Senate committee gave its recommendation to a bill that passed the House earlier in the week.

HB60 would allow any Utahn over the age of 21 to carry a concealed gun without having to acquire a permit. Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, said the scope of his bill was just to legalize the behavior of putting your shirt or coat over an already legal open carry firearm.

Brooks said having a permit does not help anyone, because if police are called on someone carrying a gun, they’re not going to look at a permit and say, “All right, you’re good.”

Instead, law enforcement takes the time to verify that the individual isn’t a restricted person, illegally carrying a firearm.

“What does the permit then do?” Brooks said.

He added that 19 states have some version of a permitless concealed carry law, without seeing an increase in suicides or gun crime, and some of them are Democratic-run, making the issue “bipartisan.”

Retired Salt Lake police officer David Timmerman argued that the legislation was “reckless at best.”

“This bill is taking the step to a less civil society, and dividing our country, even as our new senators and newly elected president are attempting to unite it,” he said.

Maurena Grossman, who said she experienced unlawful display of a firearm and threats in front of her home and her children, told the committee that “I’m already on edge about the pandemic I don’t need to worry about some angry person pointing their gun on me due to lack of uncontrolled emotion and impulse control, like the road rage incident that happened in Utah County.”

She added, “I’m tired of feeling threatened, and this bill does nothing to my peace of mind, nor does it provide extra safety measures for the public good.”

But Heather Fannen, who has a concealed carry permit, said maybe if Grossman had gun safety training, she would have felt safer.

“We need to allow people, regular law-abiding citizens, the ability to protect themselves because we know that there will be people who do not follow the laws,” Fannen said

Members of the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee addressed concerns of suicide and safety instruction that Utahns would lose if the bill passes. Courses to obtain the permit offer weapon safety training and some of the fees help fund a state suicide prevention program.

“(The current program) teaches so many other things, and ... the suicide prevention education program is very important in that we have a high suicide rate,” Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, said,

The committee approved an amendment from Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, to adjust how the funds from the permit program will be allocated to the state’s suicide prevention program. If the bill becomes law, half the yearly contribution to the program will be held in reserve for the next year to ensure the suicide prevention program is funded.

The committee passed the bill along party lines at 5-2, with Iwamoto and Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, voting against.

“I don’t think this is good public policy. I don’t think the liberation of guns in our society is truly good public policy,” Davis said.