The USSC has been working with the Utah Legislature on HB 276 to put an end to gun owners being charged with disorderly conduct when someone sees their guns. HB 276 in its current form offers protection for those carrying holstered or encased firearms. This was not as much as we wanted, but it is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately there was an attempt by groups hostile to the carrying of firearms to amend the bill with language that would explicitly allow the exact abuse we are trying to stop. Unless the Utah Legislature hears from you these anti-gun organizations may win and the abuse we are fighting will be put into law.
Currently Utah’s disorderly conduct statute is silent on the carrying of guns and fortunately most of Utah’s law enforcement community respects the right to bear arms. This is evidenced by last year’s protest at the State Capitol in opposition to the Obama gun ban. Numerous people peacefully protested while carrying AR-15s and other guns, and law enforcement did not harass anyone.
Unfortunately there are a few bad apples in the law enforcement community who do not respect the right of people to bear arms. These wayward public servants are issuing disorderly conduct citations to persons lawfully carrying firearms simply because some anti-gun fanatic saw their concealed gun imprint through their shirt, freaked out and called the police.
HB 276 states that the mere possession of an encased or holstered firearm is not disorderly conduct unless there is additional behavior or circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe the gun was carried or possessed unlawfully or with criminal intent.
This would cover the majority of situations where people are being cited. Firearms that are not encased or not holstered would continue to be treated as they are today. Carrying guns in such a manner would not necessarily be disorderly conduct, most law enforcement officers would respect your right to carry in such a manner, and the few miscreant law enforcement officers who have been abusing gun owners would continue to do so.
Improving gun laws is an ongoing process and we hope to make more improvements to this section of the law in the future.
A concern that has been raised with the above language is that since it explicitly exempts holstered and encased firearms from disorderly conduct it would imply that the carrying of un-encased or un-holstered firearms is disorderly conduct. Both our and NRA’s legal counsel has looked at this and determined that this is not the case.
Just as we were making progress on this bill the Utah League of Cities and Towns and the Utah Chiefs of Police Association proposed an amendment that would put into statute the exact abuse we are trying to stop. It would allow police to charge with disorderly conduct if a person displays a gun in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to fear for the safety of any person. No one would have to actually complain about your gun. A law enforcement officer would simply have to believe that your gun might cause a person fear and he or she can charge you.
Unlike most rank-and-file police officers and the Utah Sheriffs Association, the Utah Chiefs of Police Association is very anti-gun. Their membership is made up of un-elected politically appointed police chiefs. The Utah League of Cities and Towns has also been hostile to the Second Amendment. They are a lobbying group that represents Utah cities and towns, they do not represent you. Member towns and cities pay their budget with citizens’ tax dollars and that is why we are asking you to contact your mayor and city council members and ask them to put pressure on the League to stop trampling on your rights or cut their funding.
Please heed our call to action in the first part of this alert and contact the legislators listed above as well as your mayor and city council if you live in a city or town.