Residents of Utah will soon be able to carry concealed guns without a permit.
Governor Spencer Cox (R.) will sign legislation into law this week to eliminate the permit requirement, his spokeswoman told the Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday. The act will allow any law-abiding person over the age of 21 to carry a gun under his or her clothes while in the state. Convicted felons, those adjudicated mentally ill, and other people prohibited from owning a gun are excluded from the policy.
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said his group has been pushing for the change since 2013, when a previous attempt was vetoed by then-governor Gary Herbert (R.). He said the bill becoming law is a win for law-abiding gun owners and will cut down on potential wait times for those in danger, noting that getting a permit can "take up to 90 days."
The repeal of permit requirements for concealed gun carry has accelerated over the past decade in a show of the increasing influence of gun owners and Second Amendment groups, especially at the state level. Utah is the 17th state to adopt a permitless carry system. While Vermont has used a permitless system since its founding, most states effectively banned any form of concealed gun carry until the mid-1990s. As recently as 1986, 16 states banned concealed gun carry while another 25 had laws allowing state officials to reject permit applications for any.
Now, no states outright ban concealed carry, and only eight states still allow officials to reject permit applicants who otherwise comply with training and background-check requirements.
Experts said the relaxation of concealed gun carry restrictions in recent years after concerted efforts from groups such as the National Rifle Association is proof of how influential politically active gun owners can be.
"The adoption of these laws in the last two decades has demonstrated the power and persuasive ability of a mobilized gun-rights movement," Jake Charles, executive director of Duke University's Center for Firearms Law, said.
Gun-control activists have continually opposed the loosening of gun carry laws by warning that violence would accompany the reforms. Moms Demand Action, a top gun-control group, attempted to block the Utah law. Activists accused lawmakers of "gutting" training requirements that would prove "dangerous" to the public. Utah state senator David Hinkins (R.), who sponsored the bill, disputed those talking points, arguing that broadened gun carry laws have not been linked to surges in gun crimes.
"The three safest states in the U.S. have permitless carry laws: Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine," he said during a floor debate. "This is not a left or a right issue, it's a good policy backed by good data."
Robert Leider, a George Mason University professor who studies gun laws, said gun-rights groups rebutted those arguments by emphasizing self-defense.
"Gun-rights groups have been immensely successful at legalizing the carrying of firearms for self-defense," Leider said. "Even many liberal states readily issue permits to carry firearms."
The new law will go into effect on May 5. It passed the Utah Senate by a 22-6 vote and the House by a 51-20 vote. Utah residents will still be able to obtain a concealed carry permit, which some other states require for nonresidents within their borders.