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A bill that was once supposedly dead swaggered out of the House late Tuesday toward allowing carrying concealed weapons in Utah without a permit. It also contains proposed greater protections for victims of domestic violence.
The House approved HB237 on a 55-20 vote and sent it to the Senate.
Last month, it appeared to die on a tie 5-5 vote in committee. But a couple of members who supported the bill were absent that day and helped resurrect it later.
The bill by Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, seeks to overcome objections that Gov. Gary Herbert voiced when he vetoed legislation in 2013 that would have allowed carrying concealed guns without a permit.
Herbert argued that Utah's concealed-carry permit system has worked well to protect the state with continuous daily background checks and a required firearms-safety class and he did not want to undermine it.
He has since said he would veto similar proposals.
So Perry pushed a somewhat different bill. In addition to allowing concealed carry without a permit, it would ban people who have protective orders against them or who have been convicted of domestic violence from buying, owning or carrying guns.
He said his bill is about "taking guns away from people who shouldn't have guns, and allowing law-abiding citizens who can now carry openly [such as by wearing a holster] to legally carry [concealed guns] without a permit by covering it up," such as with a coat.
He added, "This is all about allowing law-abiding citizens to carry guns to promote peace, not violence."
He also said law-abiding residents use concealed guns to "promote safety."
Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, disagreed. She said anyone who carries a concealed gun should have proper training that now comes with classes required for permits.
Perry argued his bill also would allow those threatened by domestic violence to buy and use concealed weapons quickly.
He noted that in an earlier hearing, Heather Wolsey said her ex-husband almost killed her and abused their six children. When told he had been released from jail and that police had lost track of him, "I went out and bought a gun. And I broke the law because I carried it with me" in a purse.
She later took a concealed-carry permit class and applied for a permit in September. She finally received her permit in the mail in February. "Other victims should not have to wait that amount of time to protect themselves," she said.
But Anne Bagley, a survivor of the 2007 Trolley Square mass shooting, representing Moms Demand Act, opposed the bill at the hearing.
"HB237 potentially allows dangerous people to easily carry concealed loaded weapons in our state in public places, such as Trolley Square," Bagley said, and "allows people who have not passed a background check or have proper safety training to carry loaded weapons around children and all of us."