Saturday, January 17, 2009

Utah's Openly Gay State Senator Scott McCoy Drafts SB96 To Limit Utah's Concealed Weapons Permits To Utahns Only; Gun Owners Of Utah Fires Back

On January 16th, 2009, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that Utah's District 2 Senator Scott McCoy (D-Salt Lake, pictured at left), who, along with Reps. Jackie Biskupski (D-Salt Lake) and Christine Johnson (D-Salt Lake), is one of three openly gay members of the Utah State Legislature, wants the state of Utah to stop issuing concealed weapons permits to non-residents. Non-residents receive nearly half of the permits issued each year. His proposed legislation has been designated SB96, viewable HERE.

Senator McCoy claims his motivation is budgetary; pending budget cuts at the Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI), which could result in the loss of 11 employees, spurred the draft legislation. As a result, McCoy maintains that BCI resources should be re-directed exclusively towards Utahns who are trying to get concealed weapon permits, as well as teachers and day care workers and others requiring employment-related background checks. He also cites BCI's inability to track out-of-state instructors and permit holders as an additional problem.

A January 11th Tribune article further explains McCoy's concerns. Almost 45,000 applications for concealed-carry flooded the state in 2008, quadrupling the figure from just four years ago. In December 2008 alone, BCI received 6,000 permit requests, the highest number ever, capping a year with six record-breaking months. Overall, about 71,000 Utahns have a license to pack a concealed weapon, and it is estimated that another 71,000 out-of-state residents have a Utah permit. Reciprocity exists; thirty-three other states recognize a Utah permit.

However, Senator McCoy apparently did no preparatory political spadework, because some Utahns who feel blindsided and outraged are now portraying him as a gun-grabber. In general, Utah gun-rights advocates 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. Particularly critical was Charles Hardy, the policy director for Gun Owners of Utah, who stated, "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. There was no attempt to bring stakeholders to the table to address concerns. There was no good-faith effort here. This is an attack." Gun Owners of Utah does not appear to be formally affiliated with the national Gun Owners of America (GOA) organization.

And there's bureaucratic opposition as well. Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Concealed Weapon Review Board, also wonders why McCoy didn't address his concerns with the gun-owning community, and is also concerned that McCoy might be using the "budget" as a straw man.

These concerns are further fueled by the incoming Obama Administration's attitude towards the Second Amendment, which appears to be equivocal at best. Not only has Barack Obama himself been previously associated with gun-grabbing legislation, but a little-publicized initiative called the Ammunition Accountability Act is making the rounds in a number of states. This act is being promoted by a group called Ammunition Accountability, replete with the cutesy-poo slogan, "Saving lives one bullet at a time", and their purpose is to promote legislation to make ammunition coding technology a reality.

However, instead of promoting Federal legislation, which would immediately attract national publicity and promote a healthy, legitimate debate, Ammunition Accountability is engaged in a much more surreptitious "state-by-state" strategy designed to sneak this law into effect under the guise of "grass-roots" sentiment. Thus their true agenda becomes suspect.

Finally, Senator Scott McCoy is probably not the best-positioned lawmaker to propose a ban on permits for out-of-state residents. Salt Lake City is a gay-friendly "blue" city in a "red" state; the spector of a "gay yuppie" lawmaker introducing gun control legislation in a red state is probably too much to bear. Perhaps McCoy's initiative would be of less concern if it was introduced by a "redder" lawmaker like Curt Bramble (R-Provo) or Steve Urquhart (R-St. George).

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