This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
WASHINGTON - A bill introduced into Congress this week would force every state to recognize a concealed-weapons permit issued in another state, a move that would make Utah's permit even more of a prize nationwide.
Utah has one of the more easily obtainable permits - an applicant need not even set foot in the state - and the permit is recognized in 32 other states. The Secure Access to Firearms Enhancement Act, dubbed the SAFE Act by supporters, would force the other 17 states to honor the Utah permit or another issued by a carrier's home state.
The bill, introduced this week and co-sponsored by Utah GOP Rep. Chris Cannon, includes the caveat that the permit holder would have to abide by the state's laws on where the firearm can't be carried, such as churches or schools.
Cannon backs the bill because he says the Second Amendment guarantees an individual's right to carry and own a weapon and that right doesn't end at the state line.
"You no more give up that right leaving Utah than you give up your right to freely exercise your faith," Cannon says. "This legislation is an important effort to help make that clear - as a matter of federal law."
As of the end of March, Utah has more than 112,000 valid permits registered, according to the Bureau of Criminal Identification. Of those, about 38,300 have been issued to out-of-state residents.
Utah's concealed-weapons permit has been referred to as a national permit because it can be issued to anyone - even foreign nationals - who passes certification and is not barred by law from obtaining a weapon. Other states have more restrictions on issuing such permits.
Steve Gunn, a board member of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah, says the bill would compromise the general concept of a state's ability to pass laws restricting concealed weapons. Several states, such as California and New Jersey, have a different burden for obtaining a concealed-firearm permit.
"The bill would detract from the ability of a particular state to regulate the carrying of concealed weapons," Gunn says. "I don't see why Utah should be able to dictate to California whether a concealed weapon can be carried in that state."
"It just sounds to me like a really bad idea," Gunn added.
The SAFE Act faces a tough legislative road, however. Previous incarnations have made it as far as a House committee hearing, but never advanced to a full vote. And with Congress controlled by Democrats, the bill may not get a hearing this year.
Larry Pratt, the executive director of the Virginia-based Gun Owners of America, the group pushing the SAFE bill, says the legislation should create some uniformity in the hodgepodge of state laws across the nation.
The bill is similar to the constitutional protections for drivers who have a license issued in one state and who are traveling in another, Pratt says.
"You don't have to take a driver's test when you go from Virginia to D.C.," he says.
* What it does: Allows anyone who has a valid concealed-carry permit in one state to operate under that state's carrying laws in another state. Carriers would have to abide by the receiving state's laws on where a firearm can't be carried, such as schools or churches.
* What happens now: The bill has been sent to the House Judiciary Committee. It's unclear if it will get a hearing.