Why did a Utah Senator toss a lobbyist for the NRA out of their office?

Utah State CapitolIronically, the NRA may be the very reason a bill allowing Utahns to carry concealed weapons without a permit does not pass the legislature this year.

Sources say that the NRA may be overplaying their hand with HB237, sponsored by Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, which allows for the carrying of a concealed weapon without a permit, so long as there is no round in the chamber. The proposal also enforces the current federal law prohibiting those convicted of domestic violence from possessing firearms.

Allowing Utahns to carry concealed weapons without a permit would be a significant change in state law. But, it’s apparently not enough for the NRA.

The provision requiring that concealed weapons not have a round chambered apparently is a bridge too far for the NRA. The group wants the unloaded concealed weapon rule done away with.

Some lawmakers are upset with the gun advocacy group’s overreach. This reporter personally witnessed a Utah Republican Senator throwing the NRA’s lobbyist, Arthur Thomm, out of their office because of this issue on Tuesday afternoon.

Jeremy Roberts, a pro-gun citizen activist who is working closely with Gov. Herbert and Rep. Perry on this bill, tells UtahPolicy.com he’s shocked the NRA is willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

“Most gun owners don’t care about the unloaded provision in Utah law, and those that do want to carry a concealed gun with a bullet in the chamber will take the time to go get a permit,” he says. Roberts teaches concealed carry permit classes in Utah. “We’re getting permitless carry. That’s great. Why would you want to kill the whole bill over such a minor issue?”

Gov. Gary Herbert previously vetoed (or threatened to veto) bills allowing for carrying of concealed weapons without a permit, and many see the addition of the domestic violence prevention as a compromise everyone can live with, and they’ve received signals that Herbert is on board with the changes. A request to Herbert’s office for comment was not returned.

Roberts says he’s been able to get buy-in from a number of organizations, which gives him hope the measure would pass this year.

“The one group I can’t get on board is the NRA,” he laughs. “How many gun owners in Utah would rather have permitless carry versus being able to have a concealed weapon with a bullet in the chamber? Nobody cares.”

It’s already illegal for someone who is convicted of domestic violence to have a firearm. Perry’s bill takes four steps to strengthen those prohibitions. Our own Bob Bernick previously reported in great detail what Perry is trying to accomplish. Here are the highlights:

  • If someone commits an act of domestic violence while carrying a firearm, the charge is increased to a Class A misdemeanor.
  • A person convicted of domestic violence, they have to prove to a court within 72 hours they have disposed of their guns.
  • If a judge is about to revoke someone’s 2nd Amendment rights because of a domestic violence charge, they must inform them what’s about to happen.
  • If someone who is prohibited from owning a firearm because of a domestic violence conviction tries to buy a gun, it’s a 3rd-degree felony under Utah law. If a prohibited person manages to purchase a gun, it’s a 2nd-degree felony. Perry’s bill strengthens that by requiring the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification to notify police within 1/2 hour after running a background check on someone who is prohibited from buying a firearm.

Roberts, who admits to owning more than 600 different firearms himself, says none of those provisions give him pause as a dedicated gun owner.

“If you hit your spouse, I’m not really worried about your 2nd Amendment rights.”