Utah’s proposed gun laws — blasting away at windmills

In Utah, gun laws already could be described as lenient. That isn’t keeping state lawmakers from considering ways to make them ridiculously lenient, just to teach President Obama a lesson.

If you venture into JC Penney with a rifle slung over your shoulder, a sidearm on your right hip and extra ammunition, as happened last year in Utah, how is everyone else supposed to distinguish you from some nut-job who might intend to commit mass murder?

Likewise, if you carry a black semi-automatic rifle into a legislative committee hearing, or if you’re 18 and carrying a clearly visible sidearm in the same hearing, how is everyone supposed to know your intent?

Around these parts, it’s a blurry line, but it may soon get blurrier.

I support the Second Amendment. I understand the reasoning behind giving people the right to bear arms, whether for self-defense or for hunting. (I’m a little fuzzier on the concept of armed citizens keeping the government from usurping our rights. We have a Constitution and three branches of government to protect those and, in any event, the government has an army. But that’s another discussion for another day.)

I get that people with concealed weapons permits can save lives. That happened last April in Salt Lake City when some guy started stabbing people at random while babbling something about, “You killed my people.” A regular guy with a gun put an end to that peacefully, forcing the knife guy to drop his weapon until police showed up.

Anyone who opposes the right to a concealed carry permit has to confront situations like these and explain how disarming everyone would be a good thing.

But my support for the Second Amendment begins to waver when I see people doing reckless things with that freedom.

Look at the photo from the legislative hearing. Why would you make such a visible display of a firearm at such a place? Was it really just to demonstrate that guns are not scary, or was it a not-so-subtle form of intimidation?

How does that belong in a chamber where ideas are supposed to be debated on their merits and proposed laws drafted? Do these people expect to gain public support by such a display?

Getting back to my original question, one of the ways to distinguish the nut-jobs from the responsible gun owners is to require a permit for people to carry a concealed weapon, and to make people demonstrate the ability to correctly load and fire that weapon as part of the permitting process.

Another way is to make it illegal to openly carry weapons in a provocative or disruptive way, such as by carrying several of them, along with ammunition, into a shopping mall in an age when mass shooting rampages frequent daily news reports.

But in an extreme over-reaction to President Obama’s drive for tougher gun laws, Utah lawmakers are considering HB76, which would remove the need for any permit at all to carry a concealed weapon, provided the person is at least 21 and otherwise legally able to possess a weapon.

This provision would be tacked onto the end of a law that details how it is illegal to carry weapons on the premises of any public or private school. If it passes, just about anyone over 21 would get a King’s X on those restrictions.

Lawmakers also are considering HB268, which says, “The mere carrying or possession of a holstered or encased firearm, whether visible or concealed, without additional behavior or circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe the holstered or encased firearm was carried or possessed unlawfully or with criminal intent, does not constitute a violation of this section.”

The key there is what a “reasonable person” would believe. I think a reasonable shopper at JC Penney would think someone loaded to the teeth is disruptive. Clearly, many of the people at Wednesday’s hearing would think otherwise.

Another bill, HB114, would let sheriffs arrest federal agents who want to confiscate the guns of Utahns.

That one can’t even seriously be considered a waste of money, because it would be thrown out of court so fast few legal fees would accrue.

Obama is not going to succeed with even an assault weapons ban. The Republican-led House won’t stand for it. Utah looks absolutely foolish tilting at this windmill.

The state’s gun laws are not so strict that people are demanding they be loosened. Nor is there a discernible problem these laws would fix — except for stopping people from bringing an arsenal with them on a shopping trip.

Or perhaps keeping them from packing heat at a legislative hearing.

Categories: Crime, Utah issues

About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.


  1. Donna

    I am a woman from Pa. I believe in the Second Amendment. I have guns, I have a permit to carry. It is the law in Pa. to register. If I were sitting in that meeting I would feel very afraid of that rifle,that is going a little too far. I believe in the Second Amendment. Stay strong Utah!

  2. Cap'n

    I believe this weapon was intended to scare people into not voting for constitutional carry… it is a liberal tactic to dress up as a redneck and put on a show to make good conservative people look like idiots… so here’s my question, if one cannot know what another’s intentions are, as quoted in the article, how do you know this man isn’t a liberal putting on a great show, to make a statement against guns?

  3. Adam

    People trying to make a point make regular old gun owners like me look crazy. Every time I see a story like the guy at JC Penny it makes me cringe. Don’t these people realize they are making the point for the strict gun control argument?

  4. Craig Clark

    To casually brandish an assualt rifle at a legislative hearing is a statement of in-your-face defiance that is also symbolic of the hubris in the gun culture.

    • Dennis Doyle

      Technically, the brandished rifle is not an assault weapon because it is not automatic. It is a semi-automatic rifle, as are pistols. The carrying of the rifle is just an extreme way to make a point and seems to have served the purpose. I’m still not convinced that we need constitutional carry here in Utah and am not sure of the purpose of the law.

      I’m all for the second amendment and gun rights, but I still think that we need to have background checks. I don’t want any crazies or cons running around with weapons of any sort. Perhaps we should push for a law that requires tht gun owners have either mandatory gun locks or locked cabinets to keep the weapons out of the hands of children or thieves.

  5. Marcos Martinez

    I believe the constitutional carry bill is heading in a good direction, I think it needs to be refined a little to make it more clear. I think if a person could conceal over open carry they would wich would bring down people calling law enforcement all the time when they see a gun on a law abiding citizen and them getting harassed for exercising their rights, no trumped up charges, out of site out of mind, people have a right to protect themselves, I believe this law would not make more criminals carry because they already do when they plan on using it, what this would do is make more good people want to carry and not have to worry about being a target for criticism by law and public.

  6. jaymes wheeler

    This ‘news’ entry dismisses and bypasses the purpose of individuals holding firearms….

    “I’m a little fuzzier on the concept of armed citizens keeping the government from usurping our rights. We have a Constitution and three branches of government to protect those and, in any event, the government has an army. But that’s another discussion for another day.”

    Stalin had a death penalty for any citizen who had a firearm.

    Mao “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

    Japan did not invade mainland america not because of our military but because …”There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.” is a quote by Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II.

    Democide: Death by Government; Killed Over 260 Million in the 20th Century.


  7. Adam

    So you don’t get how 3 branches of government and the constitution will prevent a government from usurping peoples rights? Let me turn this phrase around for the sake of clarity: Government….will prevent…..government…..form usurping rights….how does that work?

    • I love how some of you get so condescending when it comes to this question. Government in this country is by the people. Sure, there are abuses. Yes, I suppose you could conjure ways in which the government, with its elected representatives and its term-limited president, would turn on the people and take away their rights to self-government. It’s far-fetched, but even if that happened, having an armed citizenry wouldn’t help much. My mother grew up in Nazi-occupied Norway. At the time, Norway had few gun control laws. Everyone had weapons. That didn’t keep them from falling to Hitler’s army (although they kept up a robust underground resistance throughout the war – granddad kept a gun hidden in his home).
      Look, attacking me on this is just silly. I believe in the 2nd Amendment, as I stated, and would never support any effort to confiscate your guns, even if I don’t quite get that particular line of reasoning. But please try reasoning with me, rather than throwing out quotes from Mao or Yamamoto, which are not arguments, or by being condescending. If it doesn’t work with someone sympathetic to your cause, imagine how it would sound to someone you are trying to persuade from the opposite side.

  8. Bill Van Beckum

    Devices that accidentally kill thousands of people are licensed and registered and insured (AUTO’s) titles have to be transferred even when transferred t relatives. Your background is checked when you renew title or plates.Why not other devices that kill thousands of people a year (Gun’s).
    Background checks for all sales or transfers
    Liability for crimes committed with your guns
    10-round clip maximum

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