As the Utah Legislature considers several bills aimed at changing gun laws we decided to take a look at what the laws in Utah actually say right now and, as equally important, what they don’t.
Who Can Own a Gun?
According to Utah state law the state cannot prohibit any U.S. citizen or legal alien from owning a gun. The law also says that you cannot require someone to have a permit or license to own that gun. But as clear as that language is, the law also says that the legislature can make exceptions.
The Exceptions: Who Can’t Own a Gun
As you would expect the legislature has made many exceptions to the uniform firearm law. So, who can’t own a gun?
- You’re not a U.S Citizen
- You’re a convicted felon
- You’re on probation or parole for a felony
- You’re a controlled substance user
- You’ve been found not-guilty by reason of insanity
- You’ve been found mentally incompetent to stand trial
- You’ve been committed to a mental institution
- You’ve been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces
- You have the gun with intent to use it to unlawfully assault someone
Minors and Guns
The legislature has also put quite a few restrictions on what a minor (someone under 18 years old) can do.
If you’re under 18 you can’t have a gun unless you have your parent or guardian’s permission. You also can’t have a sawed-off rifle, sawed-off shotgun, or fully automatic weapon.
The law also says that a minor can’t have a handgun, but that is also accompanied by a long list of exceptions.
If you’re a minor you can use a handgun if:
- You’re using it at a lawfully operated target concessions stand at an amusement park. The gun needs to be firmly chained to the counter
- You’re at a hunter’s or firearms safety course
- You’re at an established gun range or any other area where firing a gun isn’t prohibited
- You’re involved in a shooting competition or practice
- The owner of the property you’re on allows it
- You have a valid hunting license and are hunting
- You’re going to and from any of these events
If you’re under 14 you have to be accompanied by your parent or guardian in order to have a gun
Back to the list of exceptions to the uniform firearm law. If you remember the law says that the state cannot require someone to have a permit or license to own a gun. Well, they’ve made an exception to that rule too. (Although a legislator has proposed a bill that would eliminate the need for a concealed carry license). If you want to carry a concealed firearm, and carry it anywhere outside of your own property, you have to get a license. But, not everyone is allowed to get a concealed carry license.
- You meet any of the requirements that prohibit you from owning a gun that are listed above
- You’re convicted of a crime of violence
- You’re convicted for an offense involving the use of alcohol
- You’re convicted for an offense involving use of narcotics or other controlled substance
- You’re convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude
- You’re convicted of an offense involving domestic violence
Once someone gets a concealed carry license they can carry a concealed weapon anywhere they want except the following locations:
- Mental hospitals
- Airport secure zones
- Churches or houses that have made known that weapons aren’t allowed
It’s not a mistake that schools were left off that list. With a concealed carry permit you can carry a concealed gun in any school. You can’t, however, open carry at a school. It’s the only place besides secure zones (the list directly above this paragraph) that you can’t openly carry a firearm.
Where Can You Shoot a Gun?
On that note, Utah gun laws don’t say anything about where you can fire a gun. They do say, however, where you can’t.
- From your car (unless you’re at a firing range or training ground)
- From, upon, or across any road
- At any road signs
- At utility or communication polls
- At any railroad equipment
- Within any Utah State Park building, designated camp or picnic sites, overlooks, golf courses, boat ramps or developed beaches
- Within 600 feet of any building without owner’s permission
- In buildings where domestic animals are kept
- In the direction of any people With the intent to intimidate or harass
Ok, so Utah gun laws do say at least one thing, albeit indirectly, about where (really, when) you can fire or use your gun. You are allowed to show, tell, and use your gun if you reasonably believe that doing so will prevent you or someone else from dying or being seriously injured.
At this point the gun laws get a little more complicated. The legislature has also given local governments the authority to regulate where a gun can be fired.
Concealed Weapon - A gun that is covered or hidden from the publics view and is readily accessible for immediate use.
Handgun - A pistol, revolver or other gun that has a barrel that does not exceed 12 inches.
Loaded Weapon - When a gun has an unexpended bullet in the firing position.
Sawed-off or short barrel shotgun or rifle - A shotgun barrel that is fewer than 18 inches and a rifle barrel that is fewer than 16 inches.
Just the Basics
This list is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to all of Utah’s gun laws but a primer to help understand the basics. If you have any questions about something you don’t see here leave it in the comments and we’ll try and get you an answer.
Gun Bills During 2013 Legislative Session
Here is a quick run-down of the bills the Utah Legislature is considering that would alter or affect Utah's gun laws.
Sponsor: Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal
HB76 Allows anyone over 21 to carry a concealed weapon without a license as long as they can legally own a gun.
Sponsor: Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove
HB114 declares that the state has supremacy to regulate gun laws over the federal government and gives local law enforcement agencies the right to prevent federal agencies from enforcing federal gun laws.
Sponsor: Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden
HB121 allows a person living with a gun owner to give that gun to a law enforcement agency for 60 days if they believe someone living with them, including oneself, is in danger.
Sponsor: Rep. Val Peterson, R-Orem
This bill changes how the concealed carry law deals with active duty service members by changing fees and renewal requirements.
Sponsor: Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield
This bill clarifies that openly carrying a weapon in a public place without any other threatening action is not considered disorderly conduct.
Sponsor: Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem
HB287 requires law enforcement agencies to return a weapon used for court proceedings to the legal owner within 30 days after the court proceedings end.
Sponsor: Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem
This bill gives the state forester the authority to restrict target shooting in areas where hazardous conditions exist.