We want to publicly thank Gov. Gary Herbert for vetoing HB76, Concealed Weapon Carry Amendments, as well as the members of the Utah Senate and Utah House of Representatives for not overriding the governor's veto. We understand and respect all opinions surrounding this bill, especially those who argued in favor of its passage and voted for it. That is what makes our country so great — the differences of opinion that should ultimately lead to good decisions being made. While we respect the views of those supporting the bill, we firmly believe as the state association of municipal police chiefs throughout our great state that the veto of this bill was not only proper, but also in the best interest of public safety.
The Utah Chiefs of Police Association together with the Utah League of Cities and Towns and the Law Enforcement Legislative Committee opposed HB76 as it represented a dramatic and unnecessary change in Utah's concealed carry permitting process that has been fair for the public, public safety and concealed carry permit holders. As Gov. Herbert so aptly stated, "If it isn't broken, don't fix it." Specifically, we opposed HB76 because it would undo the basic tenets of current statutes designed to balance the constitutional rights of the person carrying a weapon, with the rights of the general public to feel safe and be safe around individuals carrying weapons.
Current law allows a person with a concealed firearm permit to carry a loaded firearm whether concealed or open. A person who does not possess a concealed firearm permit may openly carry an unloaded firearm which would require two actions to be taken before firing a round. In order to qualify for a concealed carry permit under Utah Public Safety Code 53-5-704, a person must be screened to see that the person has not been convicted of:
A misdemeanor crime of violence other than domestic violence
An offense involving the use of alcohol
A misdemeanor offense involving moral turpitude
Additionally a person may be disqualified from a permit for behavior demonstrating a danger to himself or others by a past involving unlawful violence, threats of unlawful violence or misdemeanor violations of state weapons laws.
HB76, however, would allow any person over age 21 to carry a concealed firearm regardless of any history of these convictions or behaviors.
If HB76 became law, any person who is 21 years of age or older who may lawfully possess a dangerous weapon may carry a loaded firearm openly or concealed.
We are worried that the potential enactment of HB76 abridges the ability of public safety officers from responding to the concerns of our residents and businesses.
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As sworn peace officers trained and hired to protect our public, we will always follow the state laws as enacted by our Legislature whether we support or oppose passage. In this case, if the bill was passed and signed, we would without fail enforce it to the best of our abilities, however difficult and dangerous that may be. That would be our job and we would do it to the best of our ability. It is also our job to provide information to our elected leaders as they debate and enact laws affecting the public safety. We believe our opinions, based upon years of protecting the public, make a difference in their deliberations. We are very pleased this was the case on HB76.
Terry Keefe is the chief of police in Layton City.