SALT LAKE CITY -- The Governor may use his veto powers to stop legislation that would make carrying a concealed weapon without a permit legal; a coalition of gun safety advocates delivered a letter to Governor Herbert Monday and asked him to kill the bill.
The legislation comes in the midst of a national debate over gun safety laws. A recent online article questions why lawmakers are pushing for easier access to firearms when gun suicides outpace traffic deaths in the state.
The article claims the majority of gun deaths in Utah over the past several years were a result of suicides. Is that because Utahns have easier access to guns than in other states? Senator Allen Christensen says absolutely not. Despite push back from the state's Republican governor, the Senator is making sure he has enough votes to make a veto from the governor irrelevant.
"Currently in Utah it is legal to carry an open weapon that is visible," Christensen said.
By summer, it could be legal to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
"Same rules, but I’ll be able to cover it, same rules as our open carry now, I consider it tightening the state's gun laws," he said.
Tell that to Mother Jones, a liberal online publication which put Utah in the national spotlight with a recent article. The headline? "Trying to stop a suicide epidemic while loosening gun laws"
Senator Christensen calls the characterization unfair, "I think this bill has nothing to do with access to guns," he said.
"The mere fact that you can buy any type of firearm, semi-automatic from a gun show or from a licensed dealer, that in and of itself is frightening," said Polly Hough from Gun Sense: action for gun violence prevention.
Gun Safety advocate groups delivered a letter to Governor Herbert, saying in part: "This bill is an inappropriate response after the massacres of Newtown, Aurora and our own Trolley Square"
The Governor's spokesman released a statement regarding the issue, which says in part: "He prefers to see legislation that informs, rather than inflames, the discussion."
The Utah House of Representatives, however, has already made sure the bill is veto proof. Lawmakers said all they're doing is complying with their constituents’ demands.
"Really a lot of the bills you see that have to do with the Second Amendment are coming from our constituents who are worried about what Congress will do,” House Majority Whip Greg Hughes said.
Senator Christensen said he's making sure he secures enough votes before the legislation reaches the Senate floor, just in case the Governor uses his veto powers.
"I would like to get 20 votes in the Senate,” Christensen said. “That way the Governor won’t be, he said that he's not in favor of it, but does he hate it enough to veto it? I don’t know. That’s going to be the governor’s call, but if I get 20 votes, that’s a veto proof majority."
Fox 13 doesn't know the answer to that question, yet. If Senator Christensen gets his 20 votes, it won't matter as by then the bill would be veto proof. There has been no word on when the legislation will reach the Senate floor for a vote, but the Utah legislative session ends Thursday at midnight.