SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert was asked Monday to veto a bill that would allow concealed weapons to be carried without a permit.
In a letter delivered to the governor's office, the recently formed Utah Parents Against Gun Violence and six other groups warned HB76 "is not only a giant step backward, it will also increase the unnecessarily high rate of homicide, suicide and domestic violence."
The bill, which has passed the House and is expected to be heard by the Senate Tuesday, would allow gun owners wanting to cover up their weapons to bypass the permit process, which requires taking a class and passing regular background checks.
Miriam Walkingshaw, founder of Utah Parents Against Gun Violence, said lawmakers should be looking at strengthening the current concealed weapons permitting process rather than making it optional.
HB76 "gives too much leniency," she said. "We think a step in a more conservative direction would be better in terms of public safety for our communities and for our children."
Walkingshaw said the governor's previous admonishment to lawmakers that he did not want to see changes in the state's gun laws this session gave her "a little bit of confidence" that he would stop the law from taking effect if it passes the Senate.
Herbert's deputy chief of staff, Ally Isom, referenced the governor's criteria for reviewing this session's gun legislation in a statement issued about the request for a veto.
"As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, Gov. Herbert is satisfied that Utah's current laws are sufficient," Isom said. "He prefers to see legislation that informs, rather than inflames, the discussion."
The bill had been held in the Senate since passing the House on March 1. Monday, the bill was at the top of the House priority list for Senate passage.
House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said the argument that rural Utahns shouldn't have to obtain a permit to put on a jacket while openly carrying a weapon resonated with her.
"Most people are upset when they see a weapon," she said.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, was amended to require that weapons concealed without a permit be unloaded, which means under Utah law they do not have a round in the chamber.
The letter to the governor states that HB76 "relies on the assumption that people who will choose to conceal carry are law-abiding citizens, and that having many of these gun owners in public will make us all more safe."
Calling such "vigilantism" no substitute for efforts to prevent gun violence, the letter warns the state's "liberal gun laws paint Utah as an unsafe place" for companies to relocate and could hurt tourism.
Also signing the letter were Alliance for a Better UTAH, League of Women Voters of Utah, Utah Rape Recovery Center, American Association of University Women, Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah, and Gun Sense, a new interdenominational group.
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