Pandemic Provides Push For Permitless Carry Bill

A Utah lawmaker wants his state to become the 17th in the nation to allow legal gun owners to carry concealed without a license, and he says he’s got enough allies in the state to make it happen in 2021.

Rep. Walt Brooks, a Republican from St. George, introduced a Constitutional Carry bill in the waning days of the 2020 legislative session, but he says he’s bringing the bill back for the new session that kicks off January 19th.

“Every single person has the right to protect themselves,” Brooks said, arguing that right should extend to people uncomfortable with openly carrying firearms. “It’s allowing a law-abiding citizen to be allowed (to put their gun) under their jacket or a wife to put it in her purse.”

Brooks already has some high-profile support for Constitutional Carry, with Governor-elect Spencer Cox embracing the issue. A spokeswoman for the incoming governor says that Cox is looking forward “to working with the sponsors on the details,” which should help the bill’s chances once lawmakers return to the capitol.

The bill itself looks pretty good, though I would make one tweak. As currently written, the constitutional carry provisions kick in at age 21, meaning adults aged 18-20 would still be required to obtain a license to carry. Utah, unlike many states, actually allows adults under the age of 21 to acquire a provisional carry license, which permits possessors to carry in every location covered by the regular license with the exception of primary and secondary schools. I’d like to see 18-20 year olds covered under Brooks’ permitless carry bill as well, but that’s likely going to take some lobbying on the part of Utah gun owners.

The Constitutional Carry bill isn’t the only legislation dealing with the right to carry that Utah lawmakers will be considering this year.

Rep. Cory Maloy, R-Lehi, hopes Brooks’ bill wins approval, but he’s also running a more targeted bill, HB61, to suspend the concealed carry permit requirement during a declared state of emergency. If Brooks’ bill passes, it will make Maloy’s bill moot. But Maloy said he’s still sponsoring the legislation in case Brook’s bill doesn’t succeed, arguing it would allow Utahns to exercise their Second Amendment rights discreetly amid times of fear and uncertainty.

“Especially in the early days of the pandemic, we were having shortages all over the place. People were feeling very unsure, very nervous about their ability to provide for their families and their safety,” Maloy said, pointing to hoarding of cleaning supplies, toilet paper and ammunition as indicators that Utahns and Americans had “great concern for their persons and their families.”

That’s a good backup bill, but as even Maloy admits, the legislation would be unnecessary if the permitless carry bill passes and becomes law.

Utah’s legislature passed a permitless carry bill back in 2013, but then-Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed the measure. With the incoming governor on board, the odds of passage appear to be in gun owners’ favor this year, especially if the Second Amendment community in the state rallies behind the legislation.

If Brooks’ bill becomes law, Utah would be the 17th state to recognize the right to carry without a license. Compare that to the handful of states (Hawaii, California, Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, and Rhode Island) that still require “good cause” or a “justifiable need” in order to obtain a carry permit. It’s clear that across the country lawmakers have been moving towards full recognition of the right to carry, not adding more restrictions that turn the right of the people into a privilege of the few. My hope is that in 2021, not only will we see more states like Utah embrace Constitutional Carry, but Supreme Court recognition of the right to bear arms as well.

Sep 21, 2021 10:30 AM ET