SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday he's not happy with the so-called "constitutional carry" bill that would allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permit and repeated his belief that new gun laws aren't needed this session.
"I think the laws we have on the books right now protect our Second Amendment rights," the governor told reporters. He said met with the sponsor of HB76, Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, and expressed his displeasure.
But Herbert also said he agreed with the reason Mathis gave for coming up with the bill — to prevent a repeat of an incident where a hunter was stopped by a fish and game warden for having a gun beneath a jacket without a concealed weapons permit.
"(Mathis) doesn't think that's right, and he's correct. That isn't right. (The hunter) shouldn't have been hassled," the governor said. "That being said, I've given (Mathis) some suggestion that's probably something I'm not too pleased with in its present form."
Herbert said he made it clear he wants the bill to be limited only to that type of situation in rural areas. An attempt to amend the bill to affect only the state's smaller counties failed in the House on Tuesday, and the bill was circled, or put on hold.
"I think that's an area that ought to be explored," the governor said. He stopped short of saying what changes would need to be made to avoid a veto, but said Mathis is considering his concerns.
Mathis had little to say about what he might do as a result of his meeting with Herbert.
“We had a good discussion,” he said, declining to answer questions. “He's a great man, and I respect his opinion.”
The governor has already announced his "guiding principles" in evaluating gun-related legislation, asking lawmakers to keep their emotions in check as they respond to President Barack Obama's call for more gun control.
Also Thursday, a bill aimed at giving law enforcement more authority over gun owners who walk through malls and other public places with guns on their hips or slung over their shoulders was approved by the House 54-12 and now goes to the Senate.
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, sponsor of HB268, said if the bill had been law during last week's so-called "Gun Day" at the Legislature, a man who brandished an assault rifle next to a child at a committee hearing could have been cited.
"This is a disorderly conduct bill. This bill is not about allowing people to open carry," Ray said.
The bill requires that guns be properly holstered and rifles encased when being openly carried in public and allows someone with a gun to be stopped if they're acting in a way that would cause a "reasonable person" to be concerned about safety.
But the bill also spells out that just displaying a gun in public does not constitute disorderly conduct.
That resulted in debate. Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said the bill appeared to be an attempt to say those Utahns who are not comfortable seeing guns displayed while they shop, dine or see a movie are unreasonable.
House Minority Whip Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said despite whatever discomfort some people may experience, someone should not be stopped merely for displaying a weapon as allowed by the bill.
"We're not a state of mob rule," Hughes said.
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