When the state agency responsible for issuing concealed-weapons permits says the demand has become "unmanageable," state lawmakers need to change course.
Nearly half of the permits issued this fiscal year went to out-of-state residents. That's a problem because law-enforcement officials cannot monitor the criminal records of out-of-state permit holders sufficiently. It's a potential public safety problem.
There is a simple solution to this matter. Utah could stop issuing these permits to residents of other states. The state could then do a better job of tracking Utah permit holders and devote more resources to other background checks conducted by the Utah Department of Public Safety.
This issue raises a number of public-policy questions. Is it fair that Utah residents who obtain permits are subject to greater scrutiny than out-of-state permit holders? The same can be asked of instructors who are certified to offer Utah concealed-weapons permit training courses. There are twice as many certified instructors out of state than in Utah. DPS does not have sufficient resources to ensure that concealed-weapons permit training offered out of state is conducted properly.
Some lawmakers say any change to this policy would chill the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding people. If that's the case, the Legislature must to be willing to raise the price of the permit to generate enough revenue to conduct similar criminal records checks on out-of-state permit holders as those from Utah. The Utah permit is popular because the $65 cost is low, the permit is good for five years, and it is recognized in 32 states. According to projections, Utah could issue more than 40,000 concealed-weapons permits this year, up from about 28,000 in 2007.
The other public policy question is, why is Utah one of only a handful of states to issue permits to out-of-state residents? Could it be that other states are not willing to issue permits for people who live elsewhere in the United States, which poses a greater challenge for regular criminal-records checks?
Utah's primary concern should be Utahns who apply or have obtained concealed-weapons permits and having sufficient resources to conduct other needed criminal-records checks. If people in other states want a concealed-weapons permit, they should petition their own legislatures for such laws. Then, their respective state governments can assume responsibility for checking criminal records.