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Mike Terry, Deseret News
A student takes notes at a concealed weapons permit class at the Weber State University extension in Layton, Utah on Thursday, April 16, 2009. Mike Terry, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — In less than 10 minutes, gun owners may renew their Utah concealed weapons permits online.

A gun rights advocate calls it a long overdue convenience, while a proponent of gun control says it creates another public safety risk.

The Department of Public Safety says it began the new service this month to speed up the process, make it less labor intensive and save money. Rather than mailing a paper renewal form to the state's Bureau of Criminal Identification, permit holders can enter the information into its website.

"Instead of waiting several weeks, we have now streamlined the process so you can receive your permit sooner while applying online," Department of Public Safety Commissioner Lance Davenport said in a news release.

Gary Sackett, Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah board member, said the new service highlights that Utah continues to make it easier than almost any other state to renew the right to carry a concealed firearm.

"The online renewal of a deadly weapon permit may save a few dollars in administrative costs, but the broader issue of public safety should trump such a minor savings," Sackett said.

In April, the state dropped the permit costs to $46 for residents and $51 for nonresidents. Permits are good for five years. Renewal costs $15.

Applicants must provide government-issued identification with a photo and fingerprints, pass a background check and complete a Bureau of Criminal Identification-certified training course that may include actually firing a gun.

Permit holders also must upload a new photo of themselves upon renewal that the bureau can compare with the one on file. The online option applies only to renewals.

"The state of Utah doesn't even require a lay person who wants to tote a concealed handgun into the grocery store to demonstrate minimal physical capability with such a deadly implement," Sackett said. "And now we will make it even easier to extend the ability of an untrained person to put public safety at risk by spending two minutes online."

Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said just because the state does not require shooting as part of the concealed carry training doesn't mean people aren't getting it. Many instructors, he said, include live shooting in their classes.

"My phone rings all the time from people who already have a permit but want additional training," said Aposhian, who has been an instructor for 17 years.

Incidents of permit holders negligently or illegally shooting their guns are rarely traced back to lack of training, he said. Aposhian said it's his experience that permit holders only use their guns to the level that they're trained, comfortable or familiar.

Online renewal "does not mitigate the requirements of application (for a permit) whatsoever," he said.

In addition, Aposhian said it will free up Bureau of Criminal Identification staff to do more thorough background checks on concealed weapons permit holders, as well as on professionals whose jobs require it.

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To date, 180 people have renewed online, most of those coming Wednesday after the option was announced, said Martin Chapman, bureau firearms section supervisor.

As of Sept. 1, in-state permit holders totaled 157,959, while 236,774 live outside Utah, according to the bureau. The state has issued 52,243 new permits so far this year.

Sixteen states have written agreements to recognize Utah's permit, while 18 others recognize it less formally.

Bureau of Criminal Identification officials are scheduled to makes an annual accounting of the amount and use of fees collected from concealed weapons permits to a legislative committee next week.

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