Tell Rep. Bishop and Rep. Love Not to Undercut Utah Law

This OpEd appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune March 25, 2017

Written by Ed Rutan and Gary Sackett, GVPC Board Members

Currently before the U.S. House of Representatives is the Concealed Carry Reci­procity Act of 2017 (H.R. 38), which would require every state, including Utah, to allow a person from another state to carry a concealed firearm while visiting, even if the home state doesn't require its own citizens to get a permit by completing an education program and a background check—and there are at least 10 such states.  This dangerous, lowest-common-denominator approach has significant public safety consequences for Utah citizens, because it lowers the bar set by the Utah Legislature to require out-of-state visitors to have a concealed-carry permit from another state.  Utah has long required completion of a background check and an education program be­fore issuing a permit.  H.R. 38 would override Utah’s minimal safety requirement for visitors from states that do not require a permit.

Representatives Rob Bishop and Mia Love are co-sponsors of this federal mandate to permit visitors, who as Utah citizens would not be allowed to carry a concealed weapon in Utah, to do just that.  The ironic twist is that these erstwhile champions of states’ rights conveniently lay aside their principles when it comes to the proli­feration of dangerous weapons and support of the guns-for-everyone agenda of the gun lobby. 

The bill’s sponsor argues that concealed-carry permits should be like driver licenses.  Yet, there is no federal mandate requiring states to recognize other states’ driver licenses.  Each state’s license is recognized by every other state, because the states have agreed to this recipro­city.  That’s how recognition of concealed-carry permits is handled today—by state action.  But, the gun lobby is pushing this federal bill, because it doesn’t like the permit requirements in states like California and New York. 

H.R. 38’s sponsor also argues that a federal mandate is necessary because concealed-carry permit holders “find it difficult to navigate” state concealed-carry laws.  Actually, it is quite easy for a person to be in compliance.  A Utah permit holder can quickly check which states recognize a Utah permit by going to the Utah Public Safety Department’s website, and other states provide the same convenient service for their citizens.  A state’s interest in public safety is too important to be jettisoned just because firearm owners are not willing to take minimal steps to check whether their permits are recognized in the states they are traveling to.

The bill’s sponsor falsely claims that, “States will still retain their authority to de­ter­mine regulations for carrying within their borders,” but this authority is narrowly lim­ited to allowing private property owners to prohibit concealed weapons on their property and allowing states to restrict possession of firearms on government property.  Beyond that, H.R. 38 would still allow visitors from states that allow permit-less concealed carry safety to roam freely in Utah’s communities.

The provision in H.R. 38 that allows permit-less carry is falsely referred to by the bill’s sponsor as “constitutional carry”—a fundamental misnomer.  There is no Second Amendment right to carry a concealed weapon.  The late, conservative Justice Antonin Scalia—author of  the District of Columbia v. Heller decision—wrote that the individual right to bear arms “was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”  Indeed, Justice Scalia specifically noted that “pro­hibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues.” 

Current Utah law requires a person carrying a concealed weapon at least to have an actual permit from another state before entering Utah.  H.B. 38’s federal mandate would over­ride that very basic, common-sense protection of Utah citizens.

Call, email or write Utah’s congressional delegation and ask them to vote against H.R. 38.

Ed Rutan, retired City Attorney for Salt Lake City, and Gary G. Sackett, a Millcreek attorney, are members of the Board of Directors of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah.