My view: Intent of HB76 was misrepresented

By Allen Christensen

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, April 30 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Some advocates of concealed weapons encourage more Americans to carry guns for self defense. The non-partisan U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated there were at least 8 million active permits to carry concealed handguns in the United States as of December 2011.

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We are very disappointed that Layton City Police Chief Terry Keefe misrepresented the intent of HB76 in his recent opinion piece ("Vetoing HB76 was for the public good," April 23). We would like to help correct those misconceptions.

The chief indicated that HB76 would be a "dramatic and unnecessary change in our concealed carry permitting process." We are curious as to how he draws this conclusion, as HB76 has nothing to do with the concealed carry permit. Nothing about the permit, the process of obtaining the permit or the privileges that come with the permit would have been altered in any way by HB76.

In the article, he spends a considerable amount of time explaining the screening process of obtaining a concealed carry permit — again we can't understand why because it has nothing to do with HB76 or what it would have done. Section 76-10-503 of Utah's criminal code, which he did not reference, has an even longer list of those who may not own or purchase a gun. HB76 would not change that list either.

He also states that "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."

This is false.

The only way anyone may carry a loaded firearm in the state of Utah is if they have gone through the training process to obtain a concealed carry permit. HB76 does not change who can carry a loaded gun — meaning a gun with a bullet in the chamber.

The true intent of this bill was to alleviate the potential for public excitement at the sight of someone carrying a gun and still honor a citizen's right to carry.

Currently in Utah, any unrestricted person 18 or older can carry a gun openly as long as the bullet is not in the chamber ready to fire. (Remember, just as the law stands now, HB76 would not have allowed non-permit holders to carry a bullet in the chamber.)

Often, when a gun is carried in public it causes others to be unduly concerned. Frequently, officers are called and a law-abiding citizen is detained and questioned just because they are exercising their right to carry a weapon. If HB76 had been signed, those who wish to carry a gun without a bullet in the chamber could do so in a concealed manner, easing the possible concern of those around them.

How would this change alter the intent of a law-abiding citizen who is carrying a gun by right of law with no pre-disposed intent to harm anyone?

It would not.

How would such a change alter the intent of a criminal, who would conceal the weapon anyway?

It would not.

The police chief is disingenuous to assert that vetoing the bill was in the best interest of the people and that enforcing it would have been "difficult and dangerous." The reality is that American citizens have a natural and legal right to possess firearms. All Utah citizens who meet the criteria set forth in our criminal code are allowed to carry a firearm with no bullet in the chamber, and anyone who is willing to go through the permit process may carry a gun loaded and concealed.

There are people who law enforcement should be worried about. Law-abiding citizens who choose — for their own reasons — to carry a gun, but do not want to cause public concern or the hassle of unnecessary scrutiny, do not fall into that category.

Allen Christensen is a senator, representing Senate District 19. This article was also signed by John Mathis, representative of House District 55 and Curt Oda, representative of House District 14.

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