Marjorie Cortez: Arizona's new gun law wouldn't be a good fit for Utah

Published: Tuesday, April 20 2010 12:03 a.m. MDT

Here's a new take on concealed firearms laws. Last week, GOP Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that allows people to carry concealed weapons without permits.

That means for people 21 and older, there will be no more background checks or classes. Proponents say the bill allows people to protect themselves and promotes Second Amendment rights. Critics worry that there will be more shootings because people with less training will have fewer restrictions.

Once the law takes effect, in about 90 days, Arizona will join Alaska and Vermont as states that do not require concealed carry permits. Forty-five states, among them Utah, require concealed firearms permits. Illinois and Wisconsin prohibit them.

Arizona's law isn't a free-for-all. People who want to pack heat into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol must have a state permit. Some may want one anyway, because many states extend reciprocity for the privilege. (Utah's concealed firearms law does not prohibit permit holders from being in a bar with a concealed firearm, but state law does prohibit someone from being intoxicated while in possession of a firearm.)

Arizona's law requires people who carry concealed weapons to inform a police officer if they are asked. Under the new law, officers are authorized to temporarily take the weapon while communicating with the gun carrier.

This law got me thinking that Utah's concealed carry law, while far from perfect, may be better public policy.

My primary concern with concealed weapons permits has been that people permitted to carry loaded and concealed firearms into public schools demonstrate that they know how to use them. The law was amended a few years ago to require instruction and live firing.

The required background checks give me some peace of mind because they weed out people who are not eligible for the permits, such as convicted felons; those convicted of any crime of violence; those convicted of any offense involving domestic violence and people who have been adjudicated mentally incompetent by a state or federal court, among other restricted persons.

What the state gives, the state can take away, meaning the permits can be revoked for specific reasons, which promotes public safety.

It remains to be seen if other states start introducing legislation doing away with the required permits. People who travel by car or truck probably will want to keep their permits because of the reciprocity they afford.

People who are bent on committing crimes or believe they still live in the wild, wild West probably aren't going to trouble themselves with a government requirement. They probably buy guns off the books, too.

The passage of Arizona's law puts me in a bit of a box. The Department of Interior's recent decision to allow holders of concealed firearms into national parks didn't give me a whole lot of heartburn. It essentially says national parks are governed by the same rules in the states in which they are located, with exceptions for "federal facilities" such as visitor centers. I guess that means a permit holder who needs to use the "facilities" has to leave their gun in the car, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me, either. An all-or-nothing rule would be easier to enforce.

Regular readers of my column are probably surprised that I'm not exercised about the federal rule or screaming to the rafters about the Arizona law.

The way I figure it, the federal rule was largely about politics. There are a good many people who think the Obama administration wants to round up their guns. This was somewhat of an olive branch to that ilk.

As for Arizona's law, that's their business. However, I don't think it's a good fit for Utah. I hope we don't see a movement to repeal a law I originally resisted but have now come to realize has certain benefits.

Marjorie Cortez, who has become more concerned about the spate of BB gun shootings in Salt Lake County in recent weeks, is a Deseret News editorial writer. E-mail her at marjorie@desnews.com.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS