State Sen. Scott McCoy wants to reserve Utah concealed weapons permits for Utahns.
The Salt Lake Democrat has unveiled a bill that would stop the Bureau of Criminal Identification from issuing permits to nonresidents, who now receive about half the tens of thousands issued each year.
The bill has sent waves of anger through the gun-rights community, who portray it as anti-gun -- a charge McCoy denies.
Pending budget cuts at BCI that could result in the loss of 11 employees spurred the draft legislation, said the lawmaker.
"The time and resources of the BCI staff should be focusing on Utahns who are trying to get concealed weapon permits, and teachers and day care workers and others who need a background check," he said.
In addition, he points to BCI's inability to track out-of-state instructors and permit holders.
"If the permit holders are in Utah, we can check on a daily basis whether or not they should remain holders or if they should be revoked or disqualified," he said. "For the tens of thousands of out-of-state permit holders, we have no ability to do that whatsoever. For me, that says that's not a good system."
But Utah gun-rights advocates say that rationale simply stems from an ideology that guns are bad. They point to the fact that the concealed-carry permit background checks are self-funded from application fees, and budget cuts won't affect those staffers.
"Senator McCoy has projected these paranoid fantasies and mounted the most serious, egregious assault on firearms and the right to self defense that we've ever seen in the state," said Charles Hardy, policy director for Gun Owners of Utah. "There was no attempt to bring stakeholders to the table to address concerns. There was no good-faith effort here. This is an attack."
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Concealed Weapon Review Board, wonders why McCoy didn't address his concerns with the gun-owning community.
"The budget has nothing to do with it. He is misrepresenting the facts and he's going back to the old line that Utah taxpayers are footing the bill," Aposhian said. "We have experts on our side. Let's honestly address the real issues. Let's work together."