SALT LAKE CITY — A state-issued permit will no longer be required to carry a concealed gun in Utah starting May 5.
But 55% of Utahns say gun owners should not be able to carry and cover their firearms without a license, according to a new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll.
The survey of 1,000 registered Utah voters found 38% say gun owners should not have to have a permit to carry a concealed firearm. The remaining 7% are not sure.
Utah became the latest state to adopt a so-called “constitutional carry” law. HB60 sailed through the Republican-controlled House and Senate and newly elected GOP Gov. Spencer Cox quickly signed the measure last week.
The bill removed the state’s requirement for Utahns over the age of 21 to have a permit to legally carry a concealed firearm. Gun owners already may openly carry a firearm under state law.
There’s long been a misperception that the concealed carry permit provides substantial gun handling and safety training to the gun owner, said Connor Boyack, president of the Libertas Institute, a Salt Lake City-based public policy think tank.
“That’s simply not true. It’s a basic review of the law and that’s all,” he said.
Boyack said his hunch is that many of the people saying they do not support the new law are doing so because they feel like gun owners who conceal their firearms would be missing out on training.
“When we’re talking about fundamental rights, it really doesn’t matter what many in the public feel like. To us, the ability to defend yourself and your family is a fundamental right enshrined in both the federal and state constitutions. So whether a majority of the public supports that right or not, it doesn’t diminish the need to make sure the laws actually protect that right,” he said.
Boyack said he doesn’t find the new law controversial.
“It’s a tiny, tiny change. It just takes the same people who can carry in the same places already openly and it lets them put a jacket on, and that’s it,” Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said in a recent interview.
Not a single Democratic lawmaker voted for the bill. Some argued that the number of guns in people’s possession would likely rise if requirements decrease, leading to more accidental discharges and creating more risk for those going through mental health crises.
The poll found that 52% of those who identified themselves as Republicans don’t believe a permit should be required, compared to only 9% of Democrats. Men were more inclined than women to say a permit isn’t necessary as were older people compared to younger people, the survey shows.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen surveyed 1,000 Utah registered voters Feb. 10-16. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
The new law did not do away with Utah’s concealed carry permit program, which requires a criminal background check and attending a training course from a certified instructor. The course includes a suicide prevention video but does not require a demonstration of firearms proficiency or even firing a gun.
Whether gun owners continue to obtain a permit now that it isn’t required remains to be seen.
“That permitting process is one of the few tools the state has to ensure people carrying a firearm in a public place have safety training and training on the laws in Utah,” Neca Allgood, a volunteer with the Utah chapter of Moms Demand Action, said in a interview earlier this month. The group is affiliated with the national Everytown for Gun Safety.
Allgood, a certified suicide prevention instructor, also worries that far fewer gun owners will see the firearms suicide prevention module, which includes safe gun storage options.
Proponents of the law say they don’t anticipate much of a drop-off because Utah’s permit is recognized in so many states. More than half of the licenses Utah issues are to nonresidents.
HB60 sponsor Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, said during House debate that the bill allows law-abiding citizens to be able to carry their weapons to protect themselves.
“Legal and law-abiding citizens do just that. They’re careful, and they’re responsible, and they don’t need the government to force them to do something that they would do on their own anyway,” he said.
Allgood, of Syracuse, said it would be nice to think people would still take a class anyway, but laws sometimes nudge them to do the responsible thing.
Utah joined 16 states that allow concealed carrying of firearms without a permit. The others are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, North Dakota (residents only) and Wyoming (residents only).
Four other states allow permitless concealed carry with certain limitations: Illinois, Montana, New Mexico and Washington.