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SALT LAKE CITY — State lawmakers gave their final approval Thursday for a bill allowing young adults to carry a concealed weapon.
In a legislative session with many debates on the ability of young adults to think rationally and handle adult decisions, lawmakers approved legislation that would create a provisional concealed carry permit for its youngest adults.
Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Syracuse, sponsored HB198, a bill she described as an effort to protect college-age women who feel vulnerable to sexual assault.
"Twenty to 25 percent of our college-aged women over the course of a typical undergraduate career will be victim to a completed or attempted forcible rape," said Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, the bill's Senate sponsor. "A group of 18- to 20-year-old women brought this bill idea to Rep. Lisonbee. They wanted to be able to defend themselves."
Weiler said the use of a weapon ranked as the most effective means of defending against attempted rape.
The primary opposition to the measure, he said, came from people generally opposed to the idea of a young adult carrying a gun.
Utahns between ages 18 and 21 can already openly carry a firearm and obtain concealed carry permits in other states that have reciprocity with Utah, Weiler noted.
"We have the highest rate of suicide in the country, and the No. 1 thing they use for committing suicide is a firearm," said Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City.
Escamilla said young adults, with still developing brains, would not be a safe demographic to arm, especially when considering Utah's high suicide rate.
"I am not convinced that someone is going to go to a four-hour safety class and submit to a criminal background check just to take their own life," Weiler said.
After a brief debate, the Senate voted 23-6 to advance the bill in its final confirming vote. The vote followed party lines, with Sen. Brian Shiozawa, R-Cottonwood Heights, being the lone Republican to join the Democratic opposition to the bill.