EDITORIAL – Tuesday morning House Bill 76, the so-called “Constitutional Carry” bill that would allow someone in Utah to carry a concealed firearm without a conceal carry permit, was given a nod of approval from the Utah State Senate in a 19-6 preliminary vote. Supporters of the bill see it as an affirmation of an individual’s constitutional right to bear arms, while detractors find the bill controversial and unneeded.
While not exactly a blazing supporter of either side, I can appreciate concerns from both sides of the gun control debate.
I am a new gun owner myself. In January I purchased a .22 caliber semi-automatic handgun, and so far I have yet to take it out to a range and fire it. Why? I haven’t made the time for one, and I’m not about to go to a range by myself. I like to be in the company of people who know what they are doing so I can ask take advantage of their experience and knowledge until I can accumulate enough of my own.
Getting the proper education and training as a gun owner was hammered into my head while writing a recent article concerning what local law agencies feel new gun owners – and any gun owner really – should know. Without exception they all said to get training and know what you were doing.
As such, while I have yet to sign up for a proper class or two, I decided to expand my firearms education by taking a conceal carry class.
In order to get a conceal carry permit in Utah, all one really has to do is pay for and take a four-hour class, pay the state tribute – a processing fee that is – and pass a background check. No firearm training is required.
The class itself was $35. State application fees for residents are $46, while nonresidents are $51.
The instructor that I and others had for the class is an active federal agent, so he didn’t want his real name or the agency he worked for used. For the sake of simplicity, I shall refer to him as “Agent John Byers” for the remainder of this article.
Byers has been a firearms instructor since 1975, and said he encourages people to get their conceal carry permits despite the potential passing of HB76. Having the actual permits means you can conceal carry in at least 35 others states that recognize the Utah permit. It also shows that you have a measure of education on the legal issues and consequences surrounding conceal carry.
As a law enforcement officer, Byers also said a person should conceal carry because “(police) can’t always guarantee your safety.”
He also echoed the words of local law enforcement: “Go out and get extra training.”
What struck me the most, however, was what Byers said next.
As a conceal carry holder, you have to ask yourself: “Do I have the ability to kill somebody?” You have to make peace with that decision now, Byers said.
“A gun is the ultimate trump card,” he said, and pulling a gun, let alone shooting someone, he said, “should be a very last resort.”
Never use a gun to solve something as petty as an argument or brandish it for any reason, he said.
Most of all, he said permit holders should “use common sense.”
If you have an encounter where you think you may need to pull a gun, Byers recommended that the class members to do everything they can to de-escalate the situation and talk the individual down who could otherwise see a gun barrel in his or her face.
By this point I’m starting to understand there really is nothing romantic about toting around a gun – not that I thought this to begin with mind you. Still, images of cowboys and police with guns on their hips and how macho it may look have no place in reality. In a sense, popular culture has romanticized the gun as much as popular news media has demonized it.
If you’re going to make the choice to carry a concealed weapon, it’s not a light choice to make. You’ll be doing it to protect yourself and others, but as a last resort. If you’re doing it so you can legally carry a gun wedged in your rear-end and covered by your shirt, you’re missing the point.
“As a conceal carry permit holder, you represent every (permit) holder in the state,” Byers said. “You have to keep the rules.”
The four hours didn’t last as long as I thought they would as Byers was an entertaining teacher. Aside from his planting the need for heightened responsibility in my head as a prospective permit holder, he also shared the universal “four rules of gun safety” and general safety tips.
The bulk of these were a review for me, having previously written about them.
At the conclusion of the four hours I paid the class fee and did the necessary paper work. All that remains is for me to send it to the state. Byers said the state can take about four months to process the application, but to expect it to take longer. With the political climate the way it is, he said the state had been flooded with tens of thousands of applications.
Before everyone left the class, Byers said: “When you get your permits, carry every day.”
You have an obligation to protect your friends and family, he said.
At the end of the day, I believe gun ownership to be a basic constitutional right; also, as Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher said, “…with it we have a responsibility.”
I will most likely send in the application and complete the process of getting my conceal carry permit, as well as invest in some proper firearms instruction along the way. Once I receive the permit though, will I carry a concealed weapon on me?
I don’t know. For me it’s no small decision.
From the Utah Bureau of Criminal Investigation
- States that honor Utah’s conceal carry permit
- Where you CAN’T take your concealed weapon, even with a permit
- List of state-certified instructors
- Conceal carry frequently asked questions
Mori Kessler is the Assistant Editor of St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his alone and not representative of St. George News.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.