HB 49, sponsored by Rep. Paul Ray (R-Clearfield) says that in the absence of threatening behavior, the lawful possession of a firearm or dangerous weapon, whether visible or concealed, cannot be considered in violation of municipal ordinances and government entities cannot give citations for disorderly conduct or a enforce dangerous weapon laws.
Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said that he is against the bill because it would complicate the job of his officers. According to Edmunds, it is unreasonable to allow someone to carry a weapon in plain view if they are not an officer.
"The world is becoming an increasingly violent place and firearms in plain view frighten people," Edmunds said, adding that while he is against the bill, he is a big firearms proponent and a strong believer in the Second Amendment. "I have never had a problem with someone who holds a concealed weapons permit; in all my years as Sheriff I have never encountered a problem with those people. You should be allowed to carry a weapon in public but you need to go through the proper channels."
Edmunds, who is president of the Utah Sheriff's Association, said the group as a whole is against the bill.
Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter said he is against the bill as it is currently drafted because it takes away law enforcement's right to enforce disorderly conduct codes if a person carrying a weapon causes shock and alarm to citizens in a public place.
"This bill would limit our ability to confront someone carrying a gun until they performed an aggressive act," Carpenter said. "This bill does cause some concern for public safety and our ability to enforce gun laws in public places."
Rep. Joel Briscoe (D-Salt Lake City) said that he voted against the bill after speaking with the Salt Lake City Police Chief and learning about the concerns that officers from all over Utah had with the bill.
"It would make things more difficult for them when they are just trying to do their job," Briscoe said. "Interacting with anyone who has a firearm on them would be a tough choice and questions would be raised every time police stopped and questioned someone. Supporters of the bill say open carry firearm laws are better because then you know who is carrying and who isn't, but the Trolley Square shootings that happened five years ago show us that that is not true. The off-duty officer who was in the building became a target of the police because he had a gun. When there are reports of a shooting and you see someone with a gun, how do you know if it was them or not?"
Proponents of the bill include Rep Mel. Brown (R-Coalville), who said that as a gun advocate, he sees no problem with the new law because he does not anticipate a lot of citizens will openly carry their guns in public.
"Wouldn't you rather see someone's gun then not know if they have one or not," Brown said. "Concealed carry to open-carry will not make that much of a difference. I did not vote on the bill because I was in the Budget Committee, but I would have voted yes on it."
According to Brown, the bill would require open-carry guns to be unloaded, meaning the gun has to be two actions away from firing.
Edmunds said there is a time and place for people to be carrying firearms openly and this bill would take away important restrictions.
"During the deer hunt in eastern Summit County, yeah people will have rifles out," he said. "But if someone walks onto Main Street in Park City with a gun out, we are going to get a lot of phone calls and need to respond to them. We need to be cautious every time we approach someone with a firearm and this bill is wrought with problems."
Carpenter said the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, Utah League of Cities and Towns and the Utah Sheriff's Association are pushing the Senate to amend the bill so officers could still utilize disorderly conduct codes as they pertain to disorderly individuals carrying firearms in public places.
"We should know in the next week or so if amendments are going to be made to the bill," Carpenter said. "If it does pass as it is currently written we will have to begin educating citizens on their rights to enforce gun laws on their private property."
House Bill 49 was passed by the Utah House of Representatives 50-21. House Bill 49 was received by the Senate on Wednesday.