This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
There are Second Amendment absolutists who fervently believe that they need not obtain a state permit to lawfully carry a concealed gun. To accommodate them, Rep. Carl Wimmer is sponsoring a bill in the Legislature that would allow anyone in Utah over the age of 21 who does not have a criminal record to carry a concealed weapon.
Never mind that the Second Amendment absolutists are wrong. Even when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled wrongly in 2008 that the Second Amendment is a personal right, particularly when applied to self-defense in the home, Justice Antonin Scalia was careful to distinguish that "It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose." Scalia wrote specifically that concealed carry can be prohibited.
So the premise for Wimmer's bill is flat out wrong. But beyond that, there are important practical reasons why Utah's system of concealed-carry permits is better than simply allowing any adult who does not have a criminal record to carry a loaded, hidden gun.
The most obvious of these is that in order to obtain a permit, a person must undergo a criminal background check and be fingerprinted, which helps to establish identification. That helps to assure that an applicant does not have a criminal record or a protective order against him, or has been judged mentally ill. If that changes, the permit can be revoked.
Training is another reason. To get a permit, applicants must take a rudimentary course that familiarizes them with the laws that govern the use of deadly force. It also obliges them to have at least basic instruction in the safe operation of a gun. Unfortunately, it does not require a demonstration of proficiency on a firing range, which means, as a practical matter, that someone can obtain a permit without ever firing a gun.
Still, the existing permit requirements are a better safety device than simply allowing anyone over the age of 21 to pack a gun, no questions asked.
Wimmer told a House committee that he believes fears of unregulated concealed carry are unfounded, but he offered to consider a two-year pilot program to find out. That program is not in the current bill, however, which the committee passed out favorably for consideration on the House floor.
The existing permit system gives any law-abiding citizen with the desire to carry a concealed weapon ample opportunity to do so. Wimmer's proposed experiment is unnecessary, and would reduce, rather than enhance, public safety.