SALT LAKE CITY -- A local lawmaker thinks people should be able to legally carry a firearm without the threat of being charged with disorderly conduct by local police.
"Whenever you try to take away someone's Second Amendment rights, there needs to be some protection there," Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, said of existing enforcement of disorderly conduct rules by some communities in regard to firearms.
Ray, who has a concealed weapons permit, said he is nervous about facing a potential hassle when carrying a weapon in some communities.
Under Ray's bill, HB 49, police would not be able to stop an individual carrying a weapon, open or concealed, unless there was "additional threatening behavior."
The bill got a favorable recommendation Monday in a meeting of the House Enforcement and Criminal Justice Standing Committee and will now go to the House for further consideration.
A vote to move the legislation to the next step passed 8-3, with Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, and Rep. Richard Greenwood, R-Roy, among the committee members backing the proposal.
In committee, the bill led to an hour of spirited debate involving Utah gun laws and what should be done to protect the public.
Zachary Bowman, of West Valley City, carried a holstered pistol into the meeting and said the fact that he has openly carried the weapon for years has led to a number of confrontations with local police.
In one case, he said, an officer arrested him at gunpoint for disorderly conduct.
"I'd like to be able to go about my way in a lawful manner and not worry that law enforcement will take note of my firearm and charge me with disorderly conduct," Bowman said.
Steven Gun, a retired attorney who is a gun-control advocate, said the state's guidelines neither prohibit nor allow a person to openly carry a firearm.
He said Ray's legislation takes away a key law enforcement tool and suggested a poll last year showed that the majority of Beehive State residents want stricter gun enforcement laws.
Clark Aposhian, a representative of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, referenced a 2011 incident in Utah County where a person was arrested after brandishing an assault rifle in a mall. He suggested the bill wouldn't limit the ability of police to charge people in that type of incident.
"We are not apologists for the type of behavior exhibited in Utah County. I don't believe this (the bill) offers protection for them either," Aposhian said.
Jane Hill, of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, said the new bill doesn't serve the public interest.
"We're trying to foster a culture of light and have a concern about carrying a gun not fostering that culture," she said. "To just allow the visible carry (of a firearm) on the street is not serving the public well here."