Public safety and political experts say a recent change to Utah concealed carry law does not pose an additional risk to public safety.
Signed into law by Gov. Spencer Cox on Feb. 11, House Bill 60 removes the need for a license to carry a concealed firearm. Brittney Bills, a Highland City Council member and a Salt Lake Community College assistant political science professor, talked about weighing the risks of HB 60.
“I think there’s always a risk,” Bills said. “But the question we need to ask ourselves is ‘does the benefit outweigh the risk?’ This bill does not increase the risk substantially, because people already carry without a permit.”
Public safety and political experts say Utahns already face restrictions when purchasing firearms, and the test to obtain a conceal carry license was not filtering out many people.
“People can’t just go into any store and buy a gun,” said Shane Crabtree, the director of public safety at SLCC. “Everyone has to go through a background check at the very least.”
Crabtree explained that the test to get a concealed weapons permit was weak; it did not teach weapons proficiency whatsoever, and instructors kept everything in the classroom and never went to the shooting range to teach safety.
Bills added, “This doesn’t change the scenario for many, if any, people.”
According to the language of the bill, carrying a loaded firearm is prohibited on a public street or in a posted prohibited area. A person can carry a handgun in their own vehicle or with consent of the person in lawful possession of the vehicle.
As of 2019, Utah ranks 26th nationally in firearm mortality per capita, and support for looser gun regulation meets little opposition.
“Utah’s gun laws are pretty relaxed,” Bills said. “But they are not out of line with what other states are around us are doing, and we are certainly not the first state to do constitutional carry.”
However, not everyone shares Bills and Crabtree’s point of view.
Johanna Alvarado, a journalism and digital media student, said HB 60 makes her feel less safe.
“This new law allows anyone 21 and older to carry a concealed weapon,” Alvarado said. “Instead of feeling safe, I feel the complete opposite, and that is pretty sad.”
HB 60 goes into effect on May 5.