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Utah does not require an applicant for a permit to carry a concealed weapon to demonstrate he can fire a gun safely. That's one reason why Utah concealed-carry permits are so popular with people from out of state. In this case, popularity is not a good thing.

Would Utah allow people to get a driver license for the first time without showing they can drive a car? No. Does Utah allow people to get a first hunting license without passing a safety course that includes a session firing live ammunition on a range? No.

Utah should extend that same thinking to concealed-carry permits. If you want to carry a loaded, concealed firearm, you should first have to show that you know enough about its operation to fire it safely on a range. Other states have this requirement in their concealed-carry laws. Utah should too.

The fact that Utah does not has become an issue for other states. New Mexico and Nevada have revoked their recognition of Utah's concealed-carry permits because Utah's training requirements for its permits are deemed substandard. One reason why is the absence of the firing range training.

The Legislature responded to this by changing Utah law, but the amendment did not require range training. Instead, Utah now requires residents of other states to obtain a permit in their home state before they can apply for Utah's permit. Legislators hoped that this change would cause other states to continue to recognize Utah's permit.

This has the odd effect of increasing firearms safety in other states — because their residents can no longer obtain a Utah permit with weaker training standards without first getting one at home — but does nothing to improve firearm safety in Utah itself.

Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, claims that the reluctance of some states to recognize Utah permits is about money, not safety. He says that Nevada and New Mexico ceased to give their blessing to the Utah permit because officials in those states resented losing the income to Utah that their states would otherwise have received if their citizens had obtained permits at home.

Maybe he's right. But that doesn't weaken the argument that Utahns should be required to fire a gun on a range before they get a permit.

He says that one state's minimum of 14 hours of training, including three hours on a range, is "stupid." For an applicant who has had previous range training, perhaps that's true. For someone who has not, range experience could make the difference between life and death, for himself or someone else.

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