UHP lieutenant, state lawmaker to push for relaxed concealed carry laws in Utah

Rep. Lee Perry talks with 2News reporter Daniel Woodruff about a bill he plans to sponsor that would relax the state's concealed carry laws (Photo: Matt Michela / KUTV)

(KUTV) Another proposal is on its way to Utah's Capitol Hill that would allow the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit.

Similar efforts have failed before, but this one has a new champion — from an unexpected corner.

Rep. Lee Perry (R-Perry) is not just a lawmaker who happens to carry a gun. He’s also a police officer who believes Utah should become one of the few states in the country to allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

“The bad guys are already carrying guns,” Perry said. “You should be allowed to carry open or concealed if you're a law-abiding citizen.”

The Utah Legislature passed a bill in 2013 allowing those citizens to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, but Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed it largely over concerns from law enforcement.

Now, Perry — a Utah Highway Patrol lieutenant — believes the bill should be given another chance. He argues just like Utahns can carry unloaded guns out in the open, they should be able to do the same with guns that aren't visible.

“Let’s do the right thing here,” Perry said. “Let's not make people criminals that don't deserve to be criminals.”

But Steve Gunn with the Gun Violence Prevention Center said he doesn’t understand why the current law — which allows concealed carry with a permit only — should be changed.

Gunn also said the permit process is critical because it requires carriers to complete a firearm safety course and pass a background check.

“I'm surprised — even shocked — that a law enforcement officer would want to eliminate that requirement,” Gunn said.

“We don't give classes to people when they turn 21 to teach them how to drink responsibly,” Perry responded. “They have to take that upon themselves and figure that out.”

Perry said the current law would remain on the books to punish those who shouldn't carry but do anyway. But he said he'd like to see more guns in the right hands — especially in his line of work.

“I am deeply concerned about the fact that law enforcement's being attacked,” Perry said, referring to the recent assaults against police officers across the country, “and I know a lot of good law-abiding citizens out there that would love nothing more than to defend law enforcement officers.”

Perry said he hopes to finish drafting the bill soon. But it could face a tough foe in Gov. Herbert if he’s re-elected since the governor has already vetoed a bill like this before. 2News reached out to the governor’s office Monday to ask about Perry’s bill, but a spokesman did not respond.

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