Problematic Bill in Utah

I may be skeptical of open carry’s effectiveness as a public relations strategy, but I do support it being legal. But I find this bill in Utah to be rather odd, because it was my understanding that you could legally carry openly under Utah law with a Utah permit. This doesn’t seem to outright legalize open carry, as you would still appear to need a permit by language. Here’s what it does:

(1) An individual who is not prohibited from doing so by federal or Utah state law

(a) openly carry a firearm; and

(b) communicate to another person the fact that the individual has a firearm.

(2) If an individual who is carrying a firearm reasonably believes that the individual or another person is threatened with bodily harm, the individual may warn or threaten the use of force, including deadly force against the aggressor, including drawing or exhibiting the firearm.

It could be that the law is clarifying open carry is legal because of some practices by law enforcement in Utah. That’s entirely possible, in which case subsection 1(a) of this bill is worthy of support. I’m a little troubled by subsection two, however. I’m assuming here that Utah law is similar to other states, in that you have to be in reasonable fear of grave bodily injury or death in order to resort to deadly force. Utah, being a Western state, probably has no duty to retreat, but the standard for deadly force would still be that. Now the legislature wishes to create a situation where you can threaten, but not use deadly force. To me you’re either justified bringing deadly force into the encounter or you aren’t. What if you threaten, and then the guy charges you, like we saw here? Maybe your defense attorney can argue that once the guy charged you, the standard changed, and you were in fear of grave bodily injury or harm. But the law is often that if you create the circumstances by which you had to use deadly force, you can’t claim self-defense. It seems to me that if you’re going to introduce deadly force into a situation as a threat you should also be justified in using deadly force. I think if this passes, it’s going to get good people in trouble. Maybe I’m misunderstanding how self-defense works in Utah, but it seems to be they should sever the brandishing aspect of this bill and just push the clarification on open carry.

7 thoughts on “Problematic Bill in Utah”

  1. Just looking at it looks like it may be designed to protect people from a charge of escalation. Maybe not, but I’d want to know if I was a Utah resident.

    My reading is that the new law would make it such that you can threaten deadly force if faced with bodily harm. To me if an attack continued after the threat of deadly force being used in defense then deadly force would be justified. But that’s just ME. They really should have been more clear when writing that language.

  2. I’m just guessing, but I remember an incedent making the rounds (not sure if you posted about it) where someone was charged for using the threat of the firearm in a self defense situation. It would be inane for the law to permit you to shoot the person under a specific set of circumstances, but not to threaten to shoot the person first under the same circumstances. This could be trying to fix that…

  3. The Olde City shooting that you referenced above got me to thinking: while I (strategically) normally wouldn’t carry openly, if the shooter/victim had been carrying openly, the attackers may have never started the confrontation.

  4. Hard to say. I would point out that the attacker charged when the gun was drawn on him, so the guy knew when he began the attack that lead to the shooting that the guy was armed. You could also probably plausibly speculate he would have had to worry about retaining his gun in a 5-1 fight if they went for a grab.

  5. Utah is a traditional open carry state, however in recent years people who choose to open carry have been harassed by police in the metropolitan areas along the Wasatch Front.

    The law, as it currently stands, is vague and open to erroneous interpretation from the anti-gun left. Mitch Vilos, attorney and author of Utah Gun Law (now in its third volume), was on a local talk radio show today discussing this bill and why it’s needed.

    Link to the audio files –

    There is also a discussion on concerning the legislation.

  6. You can open carry in Utah, w/o a concealed carry permit. But when the concealed carry law was written it included wording making it illegal to “brandish” a weapon.

    The sloppy wording meant it could be interpreted that C-C permit holders could NOT open carry like everyone else. It also was interpreted that a CC permittee was in violation of the law if his weapon could be seen at all or if he pointed the gun in a situation that did not escalate to firing.

    This bill supposedly would clarify that mess. At least, that’s how I understand it.

  7. Initial guess is it addresses the rarely-considered issue of escalation. This law sez if someone is escalating a situation toward grave harm to you, you can indicate to them it’s not a good idea to go there. This in contrast to many states, where you can’t do/show anything until it’s too late for any other option.

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