Gov. Gary Herbert's bold veto of HB76 was a welcome and sensible step in the debate surrounding the use of guns in our state. Utah's current concealed-carry permit requirements are constitutional, crucial for reducing gun violence, and they work.
Every year in Utah, over 500 people are turned down for permits by the current screening process, which involves a criminal background check. According to The Tribune, since 2010 Utah has rejected 2,155 permit applications from people with felony convictions who committed such crimes as rape, burglary, child sex abuse, and domestic violence.
Contrary to the claims from gun advocates, criminals are obviously discovered during this screening and hundreds are rejected each year. House Bill 76 would have eliminated this important and effective screening tool.
Gun advocates often repeat the mantra "guns don't kill people, people kill people." But the truth is that guns enable people to kill other people more effectively than other weapons. Given the inherent risk of using firearms, it is not unreasonable to ask that those Utahns who wish to carry a deadly weapon concealed while they are out in public meet a minimum standard of conduct.
Carrying a firearm on your person in public is very different than merely keeping a firearm in the privacy of your home for self-defense. When you enter the public sphere and interact within it, the rights of everyone else around you suddenly come into play and your right to carry a weapon does not supersede the public's right to be safe.
Concealed carriers need to consider the risk of accidental discharges of their weapon and the threat that their weapon could pose to the people around them from either an accidental or intentional (but not legally justified) use of their weapon in the public realm.
I attended a concealed-carry permit class and found the session informative and important. Many people do not know or understand when the use of deadly force is considered justified under the law, and there are very serious legal consequences to them if they make a mistake.
Learning Utah's laws concerning the justification of force (for example, when a firearm can appropriately be used for defense) during a three- to four-hour class is not an undue burden on anyone, and it only benefits the applicant to have such valuable knowledge.
Unintentional shootings are a category of gun violence that have little to do with criminals, yet they can be greatly reduced with education on the proper way to handle and store your weapon, topics covered during the permit process.
Training and background screenings help ensure that those who carry a weapon concealed in Utah are both responsible and law-abiding. It is high time we recognize that guns are not mere accessories, but are deadly weapons. And carrying them concealed in public demands a significant amount of responsibility and competency on behalf of the permit holder.
In 2008, the Supreme Court upheld the right of individuals to own a firearm in their own home in the case of D.C. vs. Heller. However, Justice Antonin Scalia stated in his majority opinion that "The 2nd Amendment is not unlimited" and that restrictions, particularly on the carrying of guns in public, are permissible.
The governor made the correct decision to keep our current permit requirements in place. His veto was right for Utah, and the Legislature should let his decision stand.
Monica Bellenger is co-founder of Utah Parents Against Gun Violence. She lives in Cottonwood Heights.