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Showdown looms between gov, legislators over 'constitutional carry'

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SALT LAKE CITY — A showdown between Gov. Gary Herbert and state lawmakers could be coming now that the Utah Legislature has passed a so-called "constitutional carry" gun law.

The Senate passed HB76 Wednesday by a vote of 22-7, with all five Democrats and two Republicans voting against it.

Although Herbert has stopped short of saying he would veto HB76, he reiterated several times that Utah's gun laws aren't broken and don't need changing. But should he reject the bill, the Legislature could override his veto with a two-thirds majority vote.

The measure passed by more than a two-thirds majority in both the House (51-18) and the Senate, making it "veto proof" provided lawmakers who favored the bill wouldn't change their minds in an override session.

Both chambers' votes on HB76, sponsored by Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, were barely over the two-thirds threshold.

The constitutional carry law would allow someone to pack a gun under a coat or other attire without a state-issued concealed weapons permit. Permits are obtained by paying a fee, taking a class and passing a background check. Shooting a gun is not part of the course.

The House amended the original bill to require that weapons concealed without a permit be unloaded, which under Utah law means they do not have a round in the chamber.


In a brief Senate debate Wednesday, Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, the Senate sponsor of HB76, said the bill protects the constitutional right to carry a gun.

"It simply gives honest people the right to do what they cannot do honestly right now, and that is cover up the weapon," he said. "The bad guys will always have the advantage of not obeying the laws. This bill will help honest people be more comfortable in defending themselves."

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, said the law would bring dire consequences.

"I think this is going to cost lives, at least in my district," he said. "I think this is a bullet too far."

Another controversial gun measure, HB114, remains in the Senate Rules Committee. It asserts that Utah has the right to bar the enforcement of federal gun laws in the state.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, said Wednesday a decision has not been made whether to allow it to be debated on the Senate floor.

Contributing: Andrew Wittenberg

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