State Lawmakers considered a handful of firearms bills in committees on Wednesday. About half of the measures reinforce the status quo or make guns more available to Utahns. One bill in particular was met with heated debate.
Members of the House Judiciary Standing Committee approved a bill that would end the requirement for a person 21 or older to have a concealed weapons permit. House Bill 76, sponsored by Republican Representative John Mathis applies only to individuals who can already legally possess a firearm. Mathis says it doesn't change the type of firearm gun owner can carry or where they can carry it. He says it only creates unified guidelines for how people carry.
“In my world we use horses still," Mathis said. "We move cattle. We go fishing and it's quite common to carry a gun on a saddle. If I don't have a concealed weapon permit I have to have the gun unloaded to carry with me. If it starts to rain or it gets cold and I put a jacket on, now I'm breaking the law.”
Monica Bellenger is with Utah Parents Against Gun Violence.She's worried HB 76 will allow people to conceal weapons without training the law currently requires.
“We feel like that's kind of eliminating a step in the process," Bellenger said. "I've taken a concealed carry permit class. I feel like that's a good minimal standard. They go through a screening process. We don't want a bill that would remove those requirements.”
Sam Fidler attended the hearing with his 18-year-old son Michael, who had a handgun strapped to his hip. Fidler noted his son couldn't wear his coat in the building because he doesn't have a concealed weapon permit. Fidler says he does not believe HB 76 weakens current state law. But he says it will likely increase the number of people who do carry.
”There are a lot of people that openly carry that don't have permits," Fidler said. "This just allows them to continue to do so in the winter time or during bad weather or if they decide to wear a sport coat like I am today.”
HB 76 passed out of the committee on a 7 to 2 vote along party lines.
The same committee decided to delay action on another bill that permits state law enforcement personnel to arrest federal officers for attempting seize weapons from Utah residents citing Federal law. HB 114 is sponsored by Republican Representative Brian Greene. The committee plans to continue its consideration of the bill during its next meeting scheduled Friday.
House Bill 268 sponsored by Republican Representative Paul Ray passed out of the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee with some opposition. The bill confirms that displaying a dangerous weapon in public is not disorderly conduct.