What will it take for Gov. Gary Herbert to shift his stance and approve a bill allowing Utahns to carry concealed weapons without a permit?
Herbert vetoed the measure in 2013 and was able to head off another attempt to pass the bill last year.
This year Rep. Lee Perry thinks he's found a way around Herbert's recalcitrance in HB237, which marries permitless carry with some stronger anti-domestic violence measures.
It's an interesting concept, but will it be enough?
"We've been looking at the issue closely," says Herbert's spokesperson, Paul Edwards. "He has indicated for some time if the issue comes forward that's the same as what he's seen before, he would veto it."
So, the question is whether merging the domestic violence provisions to the thorny issue of permitless carry makes the bill substantially different from what has come before? The key phrase there is "substantially different," which Edwards repeatedly used during a conversation with UtahPolicy.com.
During his weekly media access last week, Herbert echoed that sentiment when asked about the permitless carry issue."
"If it's the same bill that we've had in the past, the answer is the same as before; I'll veto it," said Herbert. "I hear that they've added some other things that make it more acceptable. Being the open-minded person I am, I'll wait until I see the bill and look at whatever new approach they want to take if it is a new approach."
The major change regarding domestic violence in the bill is elevating the charge from a Class B to a Class A misdemeanor if the perpetrator has a firearm.
The other changes in the law are largely cosmetic. Someone convicted of domestic violence has to prove within 72 hours they've disposed of their guns if a judge orders it, and a judge must inform someone who is convicted of domestic violence that they are losing their 2nd Amendment rights.
Backers still need to make the case that there's a logical connection between expanding some 2nd Amendment rights while, at the same time, tightening up areas in Utah domestic violence laws. Is that a fair and logical trade? Most of the domestic violence protections in Perry's bill already exist in federal law.
Finding a satisfactory answer to those questions is a high hurdle to clear if you listen to the governor and his staff.
"Is there something in this bill that will improve our already very good concealed weapons law?" says Edwards. "That's where we stand at the moment, looking at these other provisions to make it substantially different."
The bill has already run into some controversy. As UtahPolicy.com reported on Tuesday, a Utah Senator kicked the NRA lobbyist out of their office because the gun right's organization is threatening to scuttle the bill unless a provision prohibiting permitless carry while a bullet is in the chamber of the gun is removed.
If the bill passes, it's unclear that there would be enough support in both houses to override a veto if Herbert is not convinced that the bill is changed enough from previous iterations to satisfy him. Sources indicate to UtahPolicy.com the Senate, in particular,
Perry's bill is currently awaiting a hearing in the House Law Enforcement Committee.