Utah's concealed-weapons permit under scrutiny
June 18th, 2008 @ 5:42pm
Richard Piatt reporting
Utah is on track to grant more than 40,000 concealed-weapons permits this year; that's way up from about 28,000 last year.
And so far this year, nearly half were granted to out-of-state residents. So what is the next step? As you can imagine, there is a sharp difference of opinion about this matter. One democratic senator says this is a matter of public safety. More conservative lawmakers say there is no problem.
Utah's concealed-weapons permits are among the least expensive and widely recognized in the nation. And to get one, out-of-state residents don't even have to set foot in the state. Today, state law enforcement officials say they're being overwhelmed by demand for the permits. Richard Townsend, with the Department of Public Safety, said, "We are having a very difficult time administering the out-of-state component to this issue."
Gov. Jon Huntsman has recently asked the Department of Public safety to seek clarification of the law, but is it working? Is it a good idea? It was exclusively democrat lawmakers asking those questions at a legislative meeting. In particular: application of rigorous background checks for gun permit applicants. Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, said, "That same process that doesn't exist for any permit that leaves the state of Utah. And goes to a resident that isn't a resident of the state of Utah."
Dee Rowland, with the Gun Violence Prevention Center, said, "Utah residents have a daily background check, I think that's good, I think until we can do that kind of thing with out-of-state permits, we are taking a great risk with other people's lives."
Defenders of gun owners' rights say Utah's law and permit system is working so well, in fact, that it's an example for other states. The majority of this committee hinted that future legislation on the issue is premature.
Clark Aposhian, with the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said, "We have yet to see a problem, let alone a pattern of problems with people being issued permits in other states. The ability to defend oneself should not stop at the border of a state."
The bottom line for everyone is safety. But there is a philosophical difference between the two sides about what that means when it comes to firearms, who carries them and how they're carried.