2015 Utah Legislative Session Recap

Anti-tyranny Rally supporters Utah Capitol
2015 Utah Legislative Session Recap
Utah Shooting Sports Council
Utah Shooting Sports Council

Utah – -(Ammoland.com)- Anti-gun bills

The Utah Shooting Sports Council ( USSC ) ensured that no anti-gun bills saw the light of day. We were able to do this thanks to all of you who took the time to contact legislators the past few years.

These phone calls and e-mails have impressed upon lawmakers that the people of Utah take their gun rights seriously and that when we take aim at an anti-gun bill we are doing it with the backing of the people of Utah.

Pro-gun bills

Freedom was advanced in Utah this year, but not as much as we had hoped. Our big push this year was Commonsense Carry (permitless carry). This passed overwhelmingly in the Senate but died in the House. The USSC will be meeting with legislators and the Governor to work on this issue between now and the next legislative session.

The other major piece of legislation, that did not pass, was a bill that would eliminate the prohibition of being in possession of a gun on a bus. This bill easily passed in the House, was not opposed by the UTA, yet died in the Senate due to the clock running out on the last day of the session. Despite this we were successful in getting four pro-gun bills passed.

Pro-Gun Bills Passed:

PASSED – H.B. 212 Wildland Fire Liability Amendments – Sponsor Rep. Mark Wheatley

Currently it is illegal to shoot tracer ammo in the state of Utah, except within the confines of an established military reservation. This bill will make it possible to shoot tracers with written permission of the director of the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands if the director specifies a limited period of time and a limited area in which the ammunition may be used.

This will allow Utah to host events like the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot which features a night tracer shoot. It will also allow the shooting of tracer ammunition at times and under conditions that are safe. This bill passed unanimously in both the House and Senate.

Gun owners owe a big thank you to the bill’s sponsor Rep. Mark Wheatley (D) and Senate floor sponsor Luz Escamilla (D).

PASSED – H.B. 298 Exemption Acts Amendments – Sponsor Rep. Ken Ivory

Currently Utah law exempts firearms up to $250.00 per person and not more than $500.00 per household in bankruptcy proceedings. This allows someone who is filing for bankruptcy to still exercise their Second Amendment rights by not losing all their firearms in bankruptcy. When this law was written $250.00 probably was enough for a gun or two, but with today’s pricing it is completely unrealistic.

This bill changes the exemption to allow any three of the following;
1 – one shotgun and ammunition for the shotgun not exceeding 1,000 rounds
2 – one handgun and ammunition for the handgun not exceeding 1,000 rounds
3 – one shoulder arm and ammunition for the shoulder arm not exceeding 1,000 rounds

This bill will allow one to exit bankruptcy with at least a minimal amount of weaponry and ammunition to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

PASSED – H.B. 300 Firearms and Dangerous Weapons Amendments – Sponsor Rep. Brian Greene

This bill does away with the definition of concealed dangerous weapon. Currently one can be charged with illegal possession of a concealed dangerous weapon for something as innocuous as having a hunting knife in a glove box or returning from a gun show with an antique bayonet sitting on the carseat covered by a jacket. Once this bill goes into effect, one can only be charged with a crime if they are in possession of a deadly weapon with the intent to use it to commit a criminal offense.

PASSED S.B. 115 – Assault Offenses Amendment – Sponsor Daniel Thatcher

This bill modifies the Utah Criminal Code regarding assault. The Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) rules require the suspension of a concealed carry permit for someone charged with assault with force. If that person was found not guilty, their permit could be reinstated. If someone was charged with the threat of assault without harm, their permit would not be suspended unless they were convicted. The problem was that, when a person was charged with assault, BCI could not differentiate between these two levels of assault. This could result in someone having their permit suspended when not appropriate (threat of assault without harm) or BCI having to spend man-hours researching the circumstances around an arrest.

S.B. 115 makes clear the difference between these two levels of assault and modifies the penalty for the threat of assault without harm. This bill does not change who is prohibited or not prohibited from having a concealed carry permit. It simply clarifies the different levels of assault.

Pro-Gun Bills That Did Not Pass:

DIED IN HOUSE – S.B. 256 Concealed Firearm Amendments – Sponsor Sen. David Hinkins

This is the Commonsense Carry bill. It would have allowed those who are already legally carrying without permits to politely cover up their guns and load a round in the chamber. In other words, it would have allowed anyone 21 years and older, who is not prohibited from possessing a firearm, to carry concealed without a permit. It would have maintained Utah’s permit system intact for those desiring a permit.

This bill passed by huge margins in the Senate (21 to 6). It then went to the House where it failed to get a committee hearing.

DIED IN HOUSE – H.B. 260 Concealed Firearms Permit Amendments – Sponsor Rep. Curt Oda

Unlike S.B. 256, mentioned above, this bill would have achieved half of the goals of Commonsense Carry. Had this bill passed we planned on coming back the following session to obtain the remaining goals of Commonsense Carry.

For Commonsense Carry to become a reality two changes need to be made in Utah law.

Those who are already legally carrying firearms without permits need to be allowed to:

1- politely conceal their firearm and
2 – carry with a round in the chamber.

This bill would have allowed those who are already legally carrying without permits to cover their guns. It would not have changed the requirement to not have a round in the chamber nor would it have touched Utah’s concealed carry permit system.

The “no round in the chamber” requirement is often referred to erroneously in the media as unloaded. This is not the case. It is legal to have a full magazine in the gun, just no round in the chamber. This is often referred to as Israeli Carry. Someone carrying in such a manner can engage a target almost as rapidly as someone carrying with a round in the chamber (see video at CommonsenseCarry.org).

With this bill Utah gun owners would have lost nothing and gained the ability to cover their guns if they are using Israeli Carry. Had this bill become law the only remaining step to achieve Commonsense Carry would have been to eliminate the “round in the chamber” prohibition.

The USSC supported a bill similar to this in 2013. It passed by wide margins in both the House and Senate only to be vetoed by the Governor. While S.B. 256 was our first choice this bill would have been a good second choice and many felt it was more likely to avoid a veto by the Governor.

The USSC looks forward to working with Rep. Oda and other legislators between now and the next session to garner support for Commonsense Carry.

DIED IN SENATE – H.B. 350 Weapons on Public Transportation- Sponsor Rep. Norman Thurston

Currently it is illegal to carry a firearm on a bus or in a bus terminal in Utah unless one has a concealed carry permit or permission from the owner of the bus. This includes all firearms, whether loaded, unloaded, encased, disassembled, or holstered. A bus terminal includes bus stops. This bill sought to do away with that restriction and allow anyone who can legally possess a gun to carry it onto a bus or bus terminal.

Many people rely on public transportation as their primary means of getting around. Currently, those wishing to take the bus to the shooting range or gun store cannot do so on a bus, even if their gun is unloaded and encased. Additionally, if someone who is legally carrying a firearm without a permit walks through a bus stop, even if they had no intention of boarding the bus, they are breaking the law.

This bill passed the House by an overwhelming majority (72 to 0). Additionally, it faced no opposition from the UTA. The bill made it to the Senate, but never made it to the floor. The clock ran out on the last day of the legislative session. We will be working on this bill next year and are confident it will pass.

DIED IN HOUSE – S.B. 276 – Firearms Safety and Violence Prevention in Schools – Sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler

This bill funds a small pilot program that will teach children what to do when they come across a gun as well as how to deal with a threat against a school. The gun safety material is very similar to the NRA’s Eddie the Eagle program.

This bill passed the House 25 to 3, moved to the House, and died there as the clock ran out before it could come to the floor for a vote.

 About Utah Shooting Sports Council: The Utah Shooting Sports Council represents the citizens of Utah who safely and legally own and use firearms, exercising rights guaranteed under both the United States and Utah constitutions. Visit:www.utahshootingsports.com