Wednesday, February 11, 2015

UT: Constitutional Carry with a twist

An interesting variation on constitutional carry has been introduced in the 2015 Utah legislature.  Constitutional carry, that is, concealed or open carry of a weapon without the requirement to first obtain permission from the government, passed with veto proof majorities in 2013.  It was vetoed by Governor Herbert, and the 2013 legislature did not have the political will to hold an override session.   Now the same legislator,  Curtis Oda, pictured above, has introduced the same bill under a new number.   

Utah has a unique requirement in its open carry law.  Open carry is accepted with a peculiar twist: the pistol has to be "unloaded" under the definition in Utah law.  A pistol is considred unloaded if it takes two mechanical actions to fire the pistol, and it may not be carried with a round chambered.  This seems to have resulted as a reaction to modern pistol design.  The old way, standard until about 1972, to commonly carry a single action revolver safely, was to have an empty chamber under the hammer. 

The way that a single action revolver works, two mechanical actions are required to fire the firearm.  First, the hammer has to be cocked.  This also rotates the cylinder, bringing a cartridge underneath the hammer, in line with the barrel.   Then the trigger is pressed, causing the hammer to fall, firing the cartridge.

Modern revolvers can be carried safely with a cartridge under the hammer.  The mechanical designs of modern revolvers make it virtually impossible to fire a pistol by dropping it, as could happen with the 1873 design of the Colt revolver.  The same can be said for most modern semi-automatic pistol designs.  The Utah law has become technologically obsolete. 

Governor Herbert claimed that obtaining a permit, attending classes,and paying fees "...does not inhibit our ability to bear arms."  when he vetoed constitutional carry in 2013.   Representative Odah has reintroduced virtually the same bill.  Here is the relevant part from HB260 in 2015:
 General Description: This bill amends provisions of Title 76, Chapter 10, Part 5, Weapons, related to conduct involving the carrying of a concealed firearm. 
Highlighted Provisions: 
 This bill:
13 ▸ provides an exemption for a person, who is 21 years of age or older and who may lawfully possess a firearm, from certain criminal provisions related to the carrying of an unloaded concealed firearm.

Here is the relevant definition of what "loaded" means under Utah law.  From

U.C.A. 76-10-502.   When weapon deemed loaded.
            (1) For the purpose of this chapter, any pistol, revolver, shotgun, rifle, or other weapon described in this part shall be deemed to be loaded when there is an unexpended cartridge, shell, or projectile in the firing position.
            (2) Pistols and revolvers shall also be deemed to be loaded when an unexpended cartridge, shell, or projectile is in a position whereby the manual operation of any mechanism once would cause the unexpended cartridge, shell, or projectile to be fired.
Utah has strong Republican majorities in both the house and the Senate.

The Senate has retained the same proportions.  In 2013 and 2015 it had and has 24 Republicans and 5 Democrats.

In 2015 the House gained two Republicans, to 63, with 12 Democrats.

In 2013, the legislature voted for the measure with 'veto proof' majorities, but then chose not to override Governor Herbert's veto.   22 senators voted for the bill, and 7 against it.   51 representatives voted for the bill, and 18 against it.   In Utah, a two thirds majority is needed for an override.  If the bill is passed early in the session, there will be time to rally an override a veto, if necessary.

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch

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