State public safety officials once again raised concerns on Wednesday about keeping track of the increasing numbers of concealed-weapons permit holders and instructors who live outside Utah and once again, lawmakers took no action.
Members of the Legislature's Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee were told the state is much tougher on Utahns with concealed-weapons permits because they can be monitored daily for any activities that would put their permit in jeopardy.
That's not the case for the more than 12,0000 nonresidents who have been issued concealed weapons permits by the state, or for the almost 650 instructors outside Utah who have been certified to provide the training required for the permits.
"It's just getting to the point where it's becoming unmanageable," said Richard Townsend, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, calling it "very difficult" to keep tabs on the out-of-state permit holders and instructors.
"The standard is much higher for our residents," he said, calling on the Legislature to clarify whether Utah should continue issuing permits to nonresidents. The department has already stopped issuing the permits to non-U.S.
residents because of similar concerns.
The Utah permits are recognized in some 32 states and almost all of those issued since July 2007 have gone to nonresidents. Townsend said they are popular because the fee ($35 to apply for a permit and an additional $30.25 for the required background check) is low and the permit is good for five years.
Some lawmakers on the committee questioned how Utah benefited from issuing permits to nonresidents.
"I want our permits to be for Utahns first," said Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake. "It seems to me we're spending a lot of time and resources on people who don't live here. That's where I'm coming from. It's not an anti-gun thing."
Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, wondered why there was so much concern about issuing permits to out-of-state residents when only a handful of states do the same.
"Why do we do it? Why don't we just cut our losses," Buttars said, asking Townsend if the department would object to eliminating the out-of-state permits.
"No," Townsend said. "We could do a much better job of serving Utah citizens."
But other committee members disagreed.
"If we're saying we're too lenient on out-of-staters, I say if that's the case we're too tough on our own residents here," Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, said.
Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, was even more forceful in his support of the program.
"Until I see blood running in the streets like we always hear, I'm not sure where the problem is," Wimmer said, suggesting an alternative might be "to follow the 2nd Amendment of the United States and allow citizens to carry without a permit."
That comment upset Dee Rowland, the volunteer chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Center. Rowland asked the committee to allow her group to testify next month, saying that she knows "people who have experienced having their children's blood flow in the streets and in parking lots." She cited the Trolley Square shootings in 2007 that left five people dead.
Wimmer apologized for his comment, calling it a "phrase used by anti-gunners" and said those involved in mass shootings such as the incident at Trolley Square did not have concealed-weapons permits.
Gun rights advocates told the committee the law should not be changed to exclude nonresidents from getting permits.
"The system is working," Brian Judy of the National Rifle Association said. "It's Utah being on the forefront of providing liberties to law-abiding citizens."
Judy and Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, as well as representatives of the Department of Public Safety, met with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. Monday about the issue."The governor believes there needs to be reciprocity with any states where we are issuing concealed-weapons permits," Huntsman spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley said. "The reciprocity would include safety concerns like requiring the same training, etc. So, we're on the exact same page as DPS."