Another effort to get rid of permit requirements for carrying concealed firearms failed to pass out of the House's Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice committee on Tuesday.
Republican Rep. Lee Perry is the bill’s sponsor. He called it a common sense measure that would make it easier for law-abiding Utahns to carry a weapon while implementing new provisions to crack down on perpetrators of domestic violence.
Current state law allows for open carry of an unloaded gun without a permit, but not for concealed weapons.
“What I’m suggesting here is because somebody put a coat or shirt over their gun, we’re going to make them a criminal?” he told the committee. “That’s the only difference. It’s the same person. ...All they’ve done is cover the gun up.“
Perry’s bill would’ve also stiffened penalties for domestic abusers and enhanced notification requirements among law enforcement agencies for those perpetrators trying to buy guns.
But public comment, like the members of the committee, were split over the issue.
Domestic abuse survivor Heather Wolsey cited her own experience escaping a violent marriage in supporting the bill. She said the current wait period and safety course requirements for a concealed carry permit put victims at risk.
“I cannot stop mentally to take a four-hour class to have a permit to hide in my purse to protect myself,” she said, her voice breaking. “I know full well that if my ex finds me alone, I am dead. And I wake up with that every single day of my life.”
Speaking in opposition was Anne Bagley, a survivor of the 2007 Trolley Square shooting and volunteer with Moms Demand Gun Sense.
“As a mother and grandmother, I cannot fathom a system where there are no provisions to protect my children and grandchildren," she said. "One that allows people who have not passed a background check or had proper safety training to carry loaded weapons around children, and all of us, really.”
Similar efforts for permitless carry have failed in recent years, including legislation vetoed by Gov. Herbert in 2013.
Even the NRA opposed Perry’s bill, arguing some of the domestic violence provisions were overly broad.
Perry acknowledged the bill was imperfect, but said the fact that both sides felt some discomfort proved it was a good compromise.
In a split 5-5 vote, the legislation failed to advance.