Utah House OKs concealed guns without permits

This Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 photo shows representatives on the floor of the Utah House of Representatives at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

<strong>SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -</strong> The Utah House has advanced a bill that would eliminate the need for a permit to carry a concealed gun in Utah, as long as it’s unloaded.

House lawmakers approved the bill 51-18 Friday morning. It now moves to the Senate for debate.

The bill from Vernal Republican Rep. John Mathis allows anyone 21 or over to carry a hidden gun, provided that the person hasn’t been convicted of a crime that bars a person from legally owning a firearm.

“All this bill does,” Mathis said on the House floor Thursday morning, “is simply allow those who want to carry openly_who can do it now_to put a coat over that gun.”

A permit would still be required to carry a loaded, hidden weapon or carry a hidden weapon on a school campus. A permit would also be needed in another state that honors Utah’s concealed weapon permits.

To get a permit, people in Utah must demonstrate that they know how to handle a gun by completing a training course or providing evidence of military service, for example. Most other states follow suit, issuing a concealed carry permit to an applicant who meet requirements such as background checks and minimum training.

Critics of the bill say it jeopardizes public safety because someone would no longer need training to carry a hidden gun legally, and that would open the door for shootings caused by an accidental discharge.

Four other states _ Alaska, Arizona, Wyoming and Vermont _ allow residents to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

Gov. Gary Herbert said earlier this week that he did not see a need for more laws to protect the rights of Utah gun owners. Herbert did not approve of a former version of the bill, he said Thursday, that would allow gun owners to conceal a loaded gun. Herbert also emphasized that he wanted the measure to apply only to rural areas.

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