Licenses to carry guns are flying out of Utah at a speed you could liken to the way Apple's new iPhones are flying off its store shelves. And it's a troublesome development.
Utah is issuing concealed weapon licenses -- by the thousands -- to people willing to pay the mere $65.25 fee. You don't have to live, or ever set foot, in Utah to get the license. These licenses are recognized as valid in more than 30 states, most of which, wisely, make it harder for dangerous people to legally carry a hidden gun.
Utah, though, makes it far too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on permits to carry lethal weapons. All a potential gun carrier has to do is be 21, pass Utah's background check system -- which doesn't necessarily link to disqualifying background check data in other states -- and have some instructor who might be anywhere in the country say the applicant has taken a course in gun safety and concealed carry laws. This means that prohibited purchasers, such as the mentally ill, domestic violence abusers, and felons, are easily able to illegally get a license to possess a gun. What's more, even those who would not be blocked legally from getting a license, can skip even basic weapons training under Utah's scheme.
In gestures that underscore the seriousness of gun ownership, other states require license-seekers to take training in how to handle and shoot a gun. Not so in Utah. Some, such as Texas -- require a written test. Not so in Utah.
One of Utah's gun license instructors advises that his course is for you if you have "the combat mind-set," while bragging that the licenses are recognized in "32 states" (such as Alabama, Alaska, Florida, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Louisiana) "and counting." What he's also counting is the bushel-load of money he's collecting from these licenses -- "The only people making money off it are the instructors," Lt. Doug Anderson, manager of the concealed firearms program for Utah's Bureau of Criminal Identification, told a Reuters reporter -- while ignoring the bloodshed that could result from Utah's policy.
More than 76,000 licenses were issued by Utah last year, according to Jason Chapman of Utah's BCI. That's double the number issued in 2008, and nearly three times the number issued in 2007. It's gotten so that more people who live outside the "Beehive State" have licenses than those who live in the state. And there are more course instructors outside Utah -- 706 of 1092 total -- than inside it, as well.
Seeing the dangers this kind of loose licensing scheme poses, Nevada and New Mexico, which border Utah, have recently stopped recognizing the permits. Utah and the other states that still accept the licenses' validity ought to consider the irresponsibility that underlies this kind of policy. Industry, which is a part of Utah's official motto, is one thing. Being productive at behavior that endangers people across the nation is another.