(Headline USA) Republican lawmakers in several more states want to loosen gun restrictions by allowing people to carry concealed firearms without having to get a permit.
Fifteen states already allow concealed carry without a permit, and lawmakers in nine others have proposed allowing or expanding the practice.
GOP governors are backing the changes in Utah and Tennessee. Another bill expanding permitless carry in Montana has passed the state House.
Most states require people to do things like get weapons training and undergo a background check to get a permit to carry a gun hidden by a jacket or inside a purse.
Groups like the National Rifle Association and state lawmakers who support gun rights argue those requirements are ineffective and undermine Second Amendment protections.
The proposed changes come after gun sales hit historic levels last summer — reflected in FBI background checks — amid violent domestic terrorist attacks by Antifa and Black Lives Matter.
The proposal in Utah would allow any U.S. citizen 21 and older to carry a concealed weapon without the now-required background check or weapons course.
The bill does allow gun owners who want to carry a concealed weapon out of state to get a permit to do so after a background check and safety course.
Newly elected GOP Gov. Spencer Cox has said he supports the idea, in contrast to his predecessor and fellow Republican Gary Herbert, who vetoed a similar bill in 2013.
Supporters of the change argue that other state laws against such things as felons having guns and anyone carrying a firearm while intoxicated are enough to ensure guns are used safely.
“I have that right to protect myself, the Constitution says we have the right. Why are we putting a barrier for law-abiding citizens?” said Rep. Walt Brooks, the Republican lawmaker sponsoring the bill that got an early nod of approval from a House committee Friday.
The software company president has represented rural southern Utah for about four years.
He pointed to a multistate study published in 2018 by the Journal of the American College of Surgeons that found loosening concealed carry permit laws didn’t lead to more homicides or violent crime.
Utah does not require a permit for guns carried openly.
In Tennessee, Republican lawmakers are expected to push again to allow most adults 21 and older to carry firearms — concealed or openly — without a license that now requires a background check and training.
GOP Gov. Bill Lee backed the idea last year, though the proposal and others were put on hold amid the coronavirus hoax.
The push in Tennessee came after the GOP-dominant General Assembly relaxed the state’s handgun law in 2020 by allowing people to obtain a concealed-carry-only handgun permit that didn’t require them to demonstrate the ability to fire a weapon.
In Montana, the House recently passed a bill to allow people to carry concealed firearms without a permit in most places.
Similar bills that would allow or expand concealed carry without a permit have been introduced in Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Alabama and Georgia.
In Texas, where the NRA plans to incorporate soon and where some lawmakers bring concealed handguns to work at the state Capitol, the GOP has listed the issue as one of just eight legislative priorities.
The idea has failed to gain traction for years, though.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.