The "constitutional carry" bill is alive and well on Utah's Capitol Hill, which may precipitate a skirmish with the Utah Senate on one side and the Utah House and Gov. Gary Herbert on the other.
SB 256, sponsored by Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, makes it legal for anyone over the age of 21 to carry a concealed firearm without a permit as long as there is no bullet in the chamber. The measure was advanced by a Senate committee on Tuesday.
Hinkins' bill is nearly identical to HB260, sponsored by Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield. Gov. Herbert vetoed similar legislation in 2013 and Oda agreed to hold off on his bill this year after meeting with Herbert. HB260 now sits in the House Rules Committee.
"You can carry a gun now anyway," argued Hinkins. "It's just a matter of whether you can cover it up or not."
Clark Aposhian, with the Utah Shooting Sports Council, told lawmaker six other states have instituted some form of constitutional carry without a problem.
"I call this bill 'common sense carry,'" said Aposhian. "The sky has not fallen in the other states that allow it. This is a huge step in lawful self-defense."
Opponents highlighted the fact that Gov. Herbert vetoed the bill once two years ago and would likely do so again. They also said requiring gun owners to go through the permit process is not onerous in any way.
"The current system has worked well, and I can't see a reason we would want to change it," said Steve Gunn with the Gun Violence Prevention Center. "There's no reason to believe that this bill wouldn't meet a similar fate (as the 2013 legislation). If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Jean Hill with the Utah Catholic Diocese said the proposal removes responsibility from the equation for owning a firearm.
"This sends a bad message as to what our priorities are as a state," she said. "The current system protects the right to carry a gun while providing some protection for others. Anyone who carries a gun should realize there are some responsibilities."
The committee sent the bill to the Senate floor on a 4-1 vote.
The future of the proposal is very much in doubt. Given the issues with Oda's legislation, if SB 256 passes the Senate, the House would likely hold or kill the bill. Should it pass the House, it would face an almost inevitable veto from Gov. Herbert.