SALT LAKE CITY -- Gov. Gary Herbert has chosen to veto a controversial concealed carry gun bill.
Herbert formally vetoed HB 76 Friday morning, arguing the state does not need more gun laws. He said Utah's existing concealed carry laws are already a model that the rest of the nation should follow.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Mathias, R-Vernal, would have allowed individuals 21 and older to cover a weapon, without having a concealed carry permit. The bill requires that it take two actions to fire the gun, meaning it cannot have a round in the chamber.
Mathias argued the bill would cover instances where people openly carrying a weapon might cover the firearm temporarily with a coat.
The genesis of his measure came from a person on a horse who had partially covered a weapon and was cited because he did not have a concealed weapons permit.
Gun rights activists expressed frustration with the veto.
"We are disappointed in the veto. This was a tiny step," Clark Aposhian, president of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said of the legislation.
He said his group will work with lawmakers to determine whether a special session to override the veto might be in the works.
A two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature would be necessary to override the veto. Based on the past session, the votes could be there to override. The Senate approved the bill 22-7, and the measure passed the House by a 51-18 vote.
Herbert met with Mathias to discuss potential problems with the legislation before it was finalized in the House and Senate, but the Vernal lawmaker pressed ahead with the measure anyway.
"As a state we must exercise extreme care that we not impose undue burdens on the right to bear arms, but I have yet to receive any credible evidence that Utah's current permit process constitutes a hardship," Herbert said.
In a letter explaining his veto, Herbert said he received dozens of letters from law enforcement agencies opposing the bill, including a letter from police chiefs in Clearfield and Logan. He said police agencies saw the bill as a dramatic change in Utah's concealed carry permitting process.
While the veto disappointed some gun rights enthusiasts, it pleased many who saw the bill as too extreme.
Maryann Martindale, executive director of the Alliance for a Better Utah, said Herbert did the right thing and polls show the majority of Utahns support what she described as "sensible gun rights."