Capitol Tightens Up Security…Slightly

If you are a frequent visitor to the Utah Capitol House Gallery, which overlooks the House Chambers, be ready for some new rules.

For security reasons, gallery visitors will enter from the south double doors and exit through the north double doors.

Used to be just the other way around, although folks often entered and exited from both doors.

The Senate Chambers are smaller, and its gallery has just one entry point, in the center, with two exit-only doors on each side.

This may sound like not a big deal.

And, really, it isn’t.

Except that the Utah State Capitol is one of the few in the nation that does not require visitors to walk through a security checkpoint, have bags examined and have some kind of metal detection of each person.

When lawmakers or other state officers from out-of-state visit the Capitol, they are uniformly amazed that there are no security checks for visitors. (Although there are rules in place to require this, if desired.)

Walk right in, sit right down, baby let your hair hang down.

When the Capitol was being remodeled several years ago, architects noted that with the wide entrances on the ground level triple double doors – East, West, North and South — it would be easy to install metal detectors.

Those waiting to enter in bad weather would have an alcove to line up for the check-ins.

But Utah legislators are a conservative lot. Some of them have concealed carry permits and carry handguns underneath their suit coats in the Capitol and on the House and Senate floors.

(Since the weapons are “concealed,” you don’t know who has them, although eagle-eyed reporters have a pretty good idea who they are.)

And at the time gun-rights lawmakers did not want to place firearm limits on visitors that were not placed on themselves.

So, while portable metal detectors can be brought in for special occasions – like if a U.S. president or vice president is in the Capitol – normally there are not such protections, other than an increased presence of UHP troopers inside the Capitol and on the grounds.

A year ago, after a man drove his four-wheel-drive truck up the front Capitol steps, security bollards were installed, and now no one can do that again.

But for now, except for redirecting House Gallery visitors (and the press), anyone can visit the Senate and House galleries without being searched, scanned or otherwise bothered.

New Utah Capitol security guidelines