As the number of concealed weapons permits issued by Utah continues to climb, public safety officials told lawmakers Wednesday it might be time to stop accepting applications from out-of-state.
By the end of the year, Utah is projected to have issued more than 40,000 concealed weapons permits nearly a 150 percent increase over 2007 and more than a 250 percent boost from 2006.
Slightly more than half of the permit applications received since the beginning of the budget year on July 1, 2007, have gone to Utahns. But since 1994, about two-thirds of the applications have come from out-of-state.
"This program has been growing by leaps and bounds," Lt. Doug Anderson, who runs the concealed weapons permit program for the Utah Department of Public Safety, told members of the Legislature's Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee.
The increase in applications has boosted revenues from the program to about $1 million annually, up from a projected $600,000 or so. That's enabled the department to cut the time it takes to process an application from three months to just one, Anderson said.
But committee member Sen. Bill Hickman, R-St. George, was more interested in why the state was issuing concealed weapons permits to non-Utahns rather than simply relying on existing reciprocity agreements with other states.
Those agreements allow concealed weapons permits to be treated like a drivers license. For example, someone with a Utah driver's license may legally drive in other states just as someone with a license issued by another state may legally drive in Utah.
Public safety officials said the long-standing practice of issuing permits to non-Utahns has left them with problems, including policing out-of-state instructors teaching a required course to obtain the Utah permit. Some 70 percent of the Utah-certified instructors don't live here.
"We would welcome some clarification," Public Safety Commissioner Scott Duncan told the committee, reminding them the state has already stopped issue permits to non-U.S. residents last year for similar reasons.
He said any benefit to the state from issuing permits to non-Utahns "would be hard to know" when asked by another committee member, Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake, to come up with pluses of the program.
Later, Duncan said he's recommending the state stop issuing the permits to non-Utahns but the decision is up to lawmakers. "We'll do it any way they want us to do it," he said, adding, "I think we need to look out for our state first."
One of the strongest gun-rights advocates in the Legislature, Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, who also sits on the committee, said the question he would ask about issuing concealed weapons permits to non-Utahns is simply, "Why not?"
Oda said after the meeting that he would oppose eliminating out-of-state permits."An American is an American," he said. "I don't care if he's a New York American or a Utah American, as citizens we have rights."