SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah gun owners will be allowed to carry concealed weapons without a permit under a bill that Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signed into law Friday.
Several other states are considering similar measures backed by gun-rights groups like the National Rifle Association. Tennessee’s governor has also supported the idea.
Utah previously required people to take a weapons course, undergo a background check and get a permit to legally carry a gun in public hidden under a jacket or inside a purse. Gun-control groups say those steps are supported by many gun owners and keep people safer.
Opponents say the permit system is ineffective on ensuring safety and that having to get a permit undermines citizens’ rights to defend themselves if needed.
“Criminals have guns, and they’re going to conceal and do with them what they do,” GOP Sen. David Hinkins said. “All this does is (for) law-abiding citizens, this allows a woman to put it in her purse or a man to put it in his jacket.”
Opponents have also objected to the removal of required education on weapons and suicide prevention.
“It’s unacceptable that our lawmakers passed a bill to gut suicide prevention training when nearly 85 percent of Utah’s gun deaths are suicides,” Mary Ann Thompson, a leader of the Utah chapter of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement. Lawmakers have put aside some resources for suicide prevention and weapons education.
The permit system would still exist for people who choose to get one.
At least 15 other states already allow concealed carry without a permit.
Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.