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Gov. Gary Herbert: NRA still sees me as being 'on the team'

Published: Friday, Aug. 28 2015 7:32 a.m. MDT

Gov. Gary Herbert speaks to the media about his decision to veto House Bill 76 on March 22, 2013. The bill would have given Utahns the right to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Gov. Gary Herbert speaks to the media about his decision to veto House Bill 76 on March 22, 2013. The bill would have given Utahns the right to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday the National Rifle Association still sees him as a strong supporter despite his veto of a "constitutional carry" gun bill earlier this year.

The governor told the Deseret News that a planned meeting with NRA leader Wayne LaPierre in Washington, D.C., that had to be postponed was "just a matter of making sure we're on the same page."

Herbert said the NRA "probably disagrees with the veto. But they recognize I'm a strong Second Amendment supporter, so it's not a big issue for them, like, 'You're not on the team anymore.'"

The NRA has not responded to repeated requests for comments about the meeting. Herbert said the NRA asked for the meeting with him, but there were scheduling issues and it has been postponed until his next trip to Washington.

The "constitutional carry" gun bill passed the 2013 Utah Legislature, but Herbert vetoed it. It would have changed the law to allow Utahns to pack a gun under a coat or other attire without a state-issued concealed weapons permit. Herbert said the permit process was appropriate.

Utah's governor has been in the nation's capital since Monday and is scheduled to head to New York City Thursday for meetings with financial industry officials as well as travel writers.

He noted the timing of his trip, during the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the debate over what action to take in response to the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons in the ongoing civil war.

Every member of Utah's congressional delegation has come out against President Barack Obama's call for a military strike against Syria, citing concerns about becoming involved in Syria's civil war.

The delegation members have also expressed skepticism about the administration's efforts to pursue Russia's proposal to round up and turn over Syria's chemical weapons to the international community.

"There's concerns on my part, too, that it looks like we're ceding leadership to the Russians, which I think is not necessarily a good image," Herbert said. "I don't feel quite as trusting of President Putin and Syria in this regard."

The governor said the topic of Syria came up during his Tuesday meeting with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said Dempsey emphasized the military will be ready no matter what decision is made.

The possibility of a new Base Realignment and Closure Commission to consider shuttering some U.S. military operations to save money was also discussed.

The governor said he told the military leader that Hill Air Force Base stands up to any installation in the country when it comes to efficiencies and it is in the best interest of the national defense and the taxpayers to keep it open.

But Herbert said after meeting with Dempsey and acting Deputy Undersecretary of Defense John Conger, he's not sure a new BRAC "is inevitable. It seems to be hanging out there. Maybe we're going to do it eventually. But it's not imminent."

Earlier this year, Obama's federal budget proposal included another round of military base closures starting in 2016. The governor said he believes a decision about BRAC may be pushed to the next administration.

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