SALT LAKE CITY — As lawmakers heard statistics Wednesday on the state of gun crime in Utah, a new study shows Utah’s rate of gun ownership has increased more than any other state over the past decade.
The study, conducted by Security.org using FBI background check data, said Utah’s rate of gun sales per 1,000 adults grew 80.4% between 2009 and 2018. Only the District of Columbia, which recorded a jump of over 600%, had a greater increase — which is likely tied to the Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, striking down the district’s most restrictive gun laws.
Utah also posted a low age-adjusted rate of gun-related homicides per 100,000 population — 2.2, tied for sixth-fewest — and a high rate of gun-related suicides per 100,000 — 11.9, tied for seventh.
Overall, Utah was estimated to have 82.8 gun sales per 1,000 adults in 2018, checking in at No. 16 among states. Montana led the way with an estimated 141.9 gun sales per 1,000 adults.
“Without a doubt, the American relationship to guns is long and complex,” the report said in its conclusion, “seemingly growing more complex by the day. But if progress is ever to be made against gun deaths and injuries, it’s necessary to start by understanding each state’s unique relationship with firearms.”
At the October meeting of Utah’s Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee on Wednesday, lawmakers saw presentations on suicide prevention, domestic violence, weapons in schools and other related topics. Eighty-six percent of firearm deaths in Utah were suicides, and someone in Utah dies by suicide every 16 hours on average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A presentation on weapons in schools also said that, according to a 2017 CDC survey, 7.1% of Utah high school students carried a weapon on school property in the past 30 days, compared to a national average of 3.8%.
The presentation called for more effective screening and prosecution of school weapons charges. The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office hasn’t screened any charges of weapons possession at school since 2017.
The DA’s chief policy advisor for the justice division, Will Carlson, said this is due to wording in 2017’s HB239. He called for a possible revision of the law’s language or the creation of a specific law for school weapons threats.
- Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226-4433
- Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
- Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
- Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386