Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. is trying to forge a compromise with the gun-rights lobby. He has proposed that anyone who wants a Utah concealed weapons permit come to the Beehive State for the necessary training. It could become a tourism vehicle and enable the Department of Public Safety to have better oversight of training programs, many of which are being conducted out of state.
Some in the gun-rights lobby are crying foul. They say such a requirement would be burdensome to people who cannot afford to travel but need the permit to defend themselves.
Utah officials need a better means to monitor the training offered by concealed-weapons permit instructors, particularly now that there are 300 in Utah and 600 out of state. It is next to impossible for state officials to oversee classes when they are conducted outside Utah. If residents of other states come here for the training and visit tourist destinations while here, that would ease regulators' concerns to some degree.
The greater worry is how permittees conduct themselves after they have obtained a concealed-weapons permit. It is not likely that DPS officials can check criminal records in other states as easily as they can here. There could be a lag in posting records or holes if certain jurisdictions don't put records in a networked state system. In other words, there could conceivably be one standard of records checks for Utahns who have permits and a lesser one for nonresidents because their state's records are not easy to access.
The most obvious solution is to ban out-of-state permits. Nearly as many permits are being issued to people out of state as to Utahns. That's a problem in terms of policing instructors and out-of-staters who seek permits. Earlier this year, the state quit issuing permits to people who live outside the United States for the same reasons.
In fairness, the vast majority of people who apply for concealed-weapons permits are law-abiding citizens. But records checks help to ensure that this privilege is not conveyed to people who have criminal backgrounds or restrictions. The permit process helps to weed out people who are not eligible, and regular records checks can determine which permits should be revoked.
We tend to trust the judgment of state officials charged with conducting these checks and issuing the permits. If they three DPS employees say they cannot keep up with demand, the state needs to provide more resources or halt out-of-state instruction and the issuance of permits to people who live outside Utah. The latter approach makes the most sense.