The Utah legislature recently passed a permit-less concealed carry law (also called a “constitutional carry” law). The bill was signed by Governor Cox and takes effect May 5, 2021. There has been quite a bit of confusion over what this law does, and doesn’t do, and we wanted to clarify some misconceptions.
What the law does:
HB0060 is actually a very simple piece of legislation, consisting of only 7 sentences in total. It performs two functions:
Function # 1: It removes the requirement for anyone over the age of 21 (Utah resident or nonresident) to obtain a concealed firearm permit in order to carry a concealed, loaded, firearm on his or her person on a “public street” (i.e. on public property). If you are looking for the technical legal definition, it exempts someone over the age of 21 from the following two laws:
- 76-10-504 (1) and (2): this law normally makes it a class A misdemeanor to carry any concealed firearm (loaded or unloaded) in any place other than the person’s residence, property, a vehicle in the person’s lawful possession, or a vehicle, with the consent of the individual who is lawfully in possession of the vehicle, or business under the person’s control. Under the new law, you can now carry a concealed firearm in places other than those listed above (such as public areas).
- 76-10-505 (1)(b): This law used to make it illegal to carry a concealed firearm (loaded or unloaded) on a public street. In legal speak, “public street” generally means any public property (i.e. public park, sidewalk, public building, etc.). Under the new law anyone over the age of 21 is now allowed to carry a concealed loaded firearm on a “public street”.
Function #2: It establishes an “expendable special revenue fund” known as the Suicide Prevention and Education Fund. This fund states that 50% of the leftover money from concealed firearm permit application fees must be used for suicide prevention efforts that include a focus on firearm safety as related to suicide prevention. This came about as a floor amendment after law enforcement groups voiced concerns people carrying without a permit would not receive the suicide prevention training that is included in the Utah permit training course.
Finally, although it may not have been the legislation sponsor’s intent, this law change would also appear to authorize an unlicensed individual to carry a loaded concealed handgun “on or about school premises” under Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-505.5. This is discussed in more detail under the Frequently Asked Questions section at the bottom of this article.
What the law doesn’t do:
- It does NOT eliminate concealed firearm permits. They will still be issued under the same system they always have.
- It doesn’t restrict concealed carry to only unloaded firearms. This is a rumor and a misunderstanding of the way the law is written.
- It does not apply to anyone under the age of 21.
- It does not allow someone to carry out of the state of Utah without a permit
- It does not allow someone to carry to a K-12 school without a permit.
Common Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What about schools?
- A: As mentioned above, it is a felony under 18 U.S.C.A. 922(q)(2)(a) to possess a loaded firearm within 1,000 feet of a K-12 school without a permit (unless you are on private property). This means, under federal law, without a permit you will not be able to carry a firearm onto, even within 1,000 feet of, a K-12 school.
- But what about state law? This is where things get tricky and I’m not entirely sure the authors of the law realized the full implications of what the law change accomplishes. Utah law (Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-505.5) makes it a class B misdemeanor to possess a loaded handgun “on or about school premises”. This includes public or private elementary or secondary schools and places of higher education (public colleges). The law further states it is a crime to possess a loaded handgun “on or about school premises” UNLESS “the person is authorized to possess a firearm as provided under Section 53-5-704, 53-5-705, 76-10-511, or 76-10-523, or as otherwise authorized by law.” Section 53-5-704 is the law that is being amended by this legislation, and it does in fact authorize an unlicensed person to possess a firearm. Meaning, to my reading this legislation could authorize an individual to possess a loaded firearm under state law at any public school premises.
In summary, federal law (18 U.S.C.A. 922(q)(2)(a)) still makes it a felony to possess a loaded handgun at a Utah K-12 school without a permit, but Utah state law would no longer appear to prevent someone without a permit from carrying onto “places of higher education”. I do not know if this was the author’s intention, but it does appear to be the result.
Q: Is Utah the first state to do this?
- A: No, Utah will be the 17th or 18th state to pass constitutional carry (depending on if Montana’s new law takes effect before Utah’s). Many additional states have other quasi-constitutional carry laws as well. Other states that have similar laws include: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota (residents only; concealed carry only), Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming (residents only)
Q: Why would someone still obtain a Utah permit?
- A: There are a LOT of reasons someone will still want a permit. For example, the Utah permit is valid in 37 different states (see the map) and if you travel out of state you will need the permit to carry in those other states. Also, having a permit exempts you from a plethora of other laws that might land you in legal trouble if you are carrying without a permit. For example, under 18 U.S.C.A. 922(q)(2)(a) (aka The Federal Gun-Free School Zones Act) it is a FELONY, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, to possess a firearm within 1000 feet of any K-12 public, or private, school. This includes simply driving past a school with a loaded handgun in your vehicle. If you have a permit you are exempt from the Federal Gun-Free School Zones Act, which means you can carry your firearm in or onto a Utah public school. There are a number of other reasons to obtain a permit and I have written about some of them here: https://mylegalheat.com/blog/why-take-a-concealed-carry-training-course-when-not-required-by-your-state/#
Q: Does the new law allow me to carry a loaded rifle, shotgun, or muzzle-loading rifle in a vehicle?
- A: No. Those without a permit may not possess a loaded rifle, shotgun or muzzle-loader in a vehicle. See Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-505 (3).
Q: When does the new law take effect?
- A: A bill enacted by the Legislature is effective 60 days following adjournment, unless another date is specified in the bill. That means this law would take effect on May 5, 2021.
Q: Will this kill the concealed firearm permit training industry?
- A: No. As mentioned above, there are a lot of reasons people still want to obtain permits. Legal Heat is the largest concealed permit training company in the United States, having trained over 350,000 people in the past 15 years. We operate in nearly 40 different states each month. Some of our top states for training are constitutional carry states, such as Arizona.
Q: What about untrained people carrying guns?
- A: As is the case with all constitutional rights, there is a risk that someone may exercise them poorly and that exercise will result in harm. Everyone should exercise their rights responsibly, but there is a significant difference between what someone should do, and what they should be required to do. A common theme amongst those opposing this law is to point to the amount of harm that could results from an unlicensed individual with a firearm, and use that harm as evidence that gun-rights need to be further regulated. However, the US Supreme Court has squarely addressed this argument, and emphatically rejected it:
“[Gun control advocates] maintain that the Second Amendment differs from all of the other provisions of the Bill of Rights because it concerns the right to possess a deadly implement and thus has implications for public safety. And they note that there is intense disagreement on the question whether the private possession of guns in the home increases or decreases gun deaths and injuries. The right to keep and bear arms, however, is not the only constitutional right that has controversial public safety implications. All of the constitutional provisions that impose restrictions on law enforcement and on the prosecution of crimes fall into the same category. [Gun control advocates] cite no case in which we have refrained from holding that a provision of the Bill of Rights is binding on the States on the ground that the right at issue has disputed public safety implications.” D.C. v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 582, 128 S. Ct. 2783, 2791–92, 171 L. Ed. 2d 637 (2008)(emphasis added).
If we are going to limit constitutional rights based on the potential societal harm they may cause, then logic dictates we should prioritize them in order of harm. Consider for a moment if the same justification put forth in favor of gun control (that the right must be restrained until harm is ameliorated) were to be applied equally among all fundamental constitutional rights. Using the internet, privacy within a home, right to fair jury trials, right to procreate… In the realm of harm that comes from unregulated constitutional rights, unlicensed individuals carrying firearms does not even register on the list. I have written much more about this topic here.
Q: Will this result in higher violent crime rates?
- A: Unlikely. The root causes of crime are multivariate, and thus diagnosing them requires a multivariate analysis. However, we can at least look at the empirical data from other states that have instituted constitutional carry laws and how that has affected their crime rates. Amongst the top ten safest states in 2019 (2020 data still hasn’t been compiled) 50% of them are constitutional carry states. This is a disproportionate representation as only 32% of states have constitutional carry laws. Below are the top 10 safest states, constitutional carry states are bolded and underlined.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
Rand Research has compiled most of the peer reviewed studies on the effect loosened carry laws have on crime and concluded there is no direct link to increases nor decreases. Modern murder rates in the United States peaked in 1991 at 9.8 per 100,000. Today the rate is around 4.5 per 100,000 (a ~45% decrease). During that same period laws regulating the carry of firearms have loosened significantly.
Phil Nelsen is a nationally recognized firearms law attorney, expert witness, college professor, author and co-founder of Legal Heat, the nation’s largest firearms training firm.
Legal Heat offers CCW classes nationwide, and also publishes the industry leading Legal Heat 50 State Guide to Firearm Laws and Regulations which can be downloaded on iTunes, GooglePlay and Kindle App stores. You can purchase the paperback version of the Legal Heat 50 State Guide or sign up for a class at https://mylegalheat.com.
You can read more about Phil, or contact him, on his website www.philnelsen.com.