SALT LAKE CITY -- Now it's up to the governor to decide if Utahns should be able to carry unloaded, concealed guns without needing a permit. The Senate voted 22-7 today to give final approval to a bill that aims to make Utah a constitutional carry state.
Lawmakers stated the change won't make a major difference in the state as they say the change in law simply allows those who were already carrying a firearm to legally put on a rain coat or jacket over their gun.
"This doesn't change anything about who can carry a weapon or possess a firearm. It simply gives people the right to do what they cannot do honestly," said Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, the Senate sponsor of the legislation.
Christensen argued that the bill only deals with law-abiding citizens and gives them more freedom. He stated that those who want to harm people with a gun aren't going to worry if they are following the law.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, wondered if the change in the law would mean less training for those who wish to own a gun. Christensen explained that a person only receives training when they obtain a conceal carry permit, not when they wish to carry a gun.
Democrats in the Senate wondered if the bill went a step too far. Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, pointed out that the definition of unloaded in Utah isn't what most people think. Utah law states unloaded is two mechanical actions before the gun can be fired. A person could have a full clip in their gun but not have a bullet in the chamber and be considered unloaded under the law.
Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, said he thinks the change is going to cost lives in his Senate district. He argued that under the proposal fewer background checks will be done and less training will be given to those who want to carry a concealed firearm.
"I think this is a bullet too far," he said.
The bill now heads to Gov. Gary Herbert's desk for his consideration. Herbert has said he likes Utah's current conceal carry law, but he has yet to threaten a veto on this bill.
"If it ain't broke don't fix it comes to mind. I don't think in Utah it is broken," Herbert said about Utah's current gun laws. "Whether I will sign or veto, I will play that role at the appropriate time."
Should Herbert veto the bill there is a chance the Legislature would override his veto. Both the House and Senate passed the bill with veto-proof majorities, although Herbert would only need to sway a small number of legislators in his direction to avoid an override.