Reviewing Gun Laws in Utah

Utah is known as being one of states with lenient gun laws, but how does it compare to other states around the nation?

Constitutionally protected right

Photo by: Teknorat

All 50 states allow residents to own firearms, but some have stricter regulations than others. Utah Code 76-10-500 states: “The individual right to keep and bear arms being a constitutionally protected right, the Legislature finds the need to provide uniform laws throughout the state. Except as specifically provided by state law, a citizen of the United States or a lawfully admitted alien shall not be:

a) prohibited from owning, possessing, purchasing, selling, transferring, transporting, or keeping any firearm at his place of residence, property, business, or in any vehicle lawfully in his possession or lawfully under his control;”

Background check

According to Utah Code 76-10-526, “An individual purchasing a firearm from a dealer shall consent in writing to a criminal background check, on a form provided by the bureau.” While a background check is required when purchasing a firearm from a dealer, it is not if the done through a private sale. Only D.C. and 19 states including California and Nevada require background checks prior to every purchases of a firearm.

Licensing and registration

Not only does the state of Utah protect the right to bear arms and not require a background check or registration for all gun purchases, it also doesn’t require those packing to “have a permit or license to purchase, own, possess, transport, or keep a firearm.” This goes along with federal law that also does not require gun owners to be licensed. The District of Columbia along California and 12 other states are the only states that require their residents to have a permit to purchase a firearm. Several of those that require permits for handguns, do not require permits for long guns. In the state of Utah, residents are also not required to register the firearms they own. Only D.C. and 8 states including California require gun owners to register the firearms in their possession.

Open carry

Utah residents are permitted to carry a firearm on their person as long as there is not a round in the firing position. The firearm must be two (mechanical) actions away from being able to be fired. Utah’s relaxed open carry laws do not allow residents to have a firearm in areas where firearms are restricted such as airports. Person’s carrying firearms are also warned not to “cause a reasonable person to fear for the safety of any person”. Utah is not alone in its decision to let residents carry firearms on their person. Only five states and D.C. have bans regarding open carry of handguns.

Concealed weapon

Concealed weapon laws are one area where Utah is somewhat controlling with firearms. Residents are allowed to carry a concealed weapon, but they must obtain a concealed weapons permit first. According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, the requirements to obtain a concealed firearm permit are:

• “Applicant must be at least 21 years of age
• Proof of good character…whereas the applicant;
• has not been convicted of a felony;
• has not been convicted of any crime of violence;
• has not been convicted of any offense involving the use of alcohol;

• has not been convicted of any offenses involving the unlawful use of narcotics or other controlled substances;
• has not been convicted of any offenses involving moral turpitude;
•has not been convicted of any offense involving domestic violence;
• has not been adjudicated by a court of a state or of the United States as mentally incompetent, unless the adjudication has been withdrawn or reversed
• is qualified to purchase and possess a firearm pursuant to Section 76-10-503 and federal law.”

42 other states allow residents to carry a concealed weapon with a permit. Only eight states including neighboring Arizona and Idaho allow concealed weapons without a permit.

Changing laws

In light of recent traumatic events, Utah’s lenient gun laws could be back up for review. Anyone desiring to purchase or carry a firearm, whether open or concealed, is recommended to review current state laws to ensure they are within the law.

Landlord and Tenant Laws- Utah Fit Premises Act

Renting out property or space in an existing home that is not being used can seem like an easy way to make some extra cash, but property owners and their renters should make certain they are in accordance with the landlord and tenant laws defined under the Utah Fit Premises Act.

Renter population

Photo by: Mark Moz

According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, 37% of households in the U.S. are renter-occupied. Of those households renting, 35% live in single-family homes, 18% live in 2-4 unit structures, 43% live in buildings such as apartments with 5 or more units, and 4% of renters live in mobile homes. With such a large percentage of households living in a structure owned by another person, there are laws in place to ensure that both landlord and tenant are protected while ensuring safe and clean housing.

Utah Fit Premises Act

The Utah Fit Premises Act found in Utah Code Title 57 Chapter 22 defines the duties associated with the owners of rentals in Utah as well as what is legally expected from their tenants. The owners or landlords can be those who legally possess the property in question or those who are hired as a “managing agent, leasing agent, or resident manager [who are] considered an owner for purposes of notice and other communication [unless otherwise stated]”. Utah Code 57-22-2 defines a renter as “any person entitled under a rental agreement to occupy a residential rental unit to the exclusion of others.”

Owner duties prior to rental agreement

According to the Utah Fit Premises Act, before an owner or manager of a property accepts a rental application fee, the owner should inform the potential renter whether or not a unit is even available and if a background check, credit check, verification of employment status, or other condition of rentals will be conducted that could disqualify the renter’s application from being accepted. Once an application is accepted, and prior to both parties signing a rental agreement, which is strongly encouraged, the owner must document the condition of the property, disclose it to the potential renters, and allow them a period of time to agree on the state of the unit. Owners may instead allow prospective renters to do a “walk-through” to inspect for damage or wear not included in the rental agreement. Upon signing the rental agreement, the property owner or lessor must include their contact information as well as a copy of the rental agreement and any rules associated with the property.

Living conditions of the property

Utah Code 57-22-3 states that the owner or rental management must “maintain that unit in a condition fit for human habitation [and that] each residential rental unit shall have electrical systems, heating, plumbing and hot and cold water.” Additionally, according to 57-22-4, “to protect the physical health and safety of the ordinary renter, an owner:
(a) may not rent the premises unless they are safe, sanitary, and fit for human occupancy; and
(b) shall:
(i) maintain common areas of the residential rental unit in a sanitary and safe condition;
(ii) maintain electrical systems, plumbing, heating, and hot and cold water;
(iii) maintain any air conditioning system in an operable condition;
(iv) maintain other appliances and facilities as specifically contracted in the rental agreement; and
(v) for buildings containing more than two residential rental units, provide and maintain appropriate receptacles for garbage and other waste and arrange for its removal, ( . . . ).”

If the tenant feels the property is in dangerous condition, the property owner shall take immediate action to repair or remedy the property within a corrective period or the rental agreement shall be terminated with the security deposit and any prorated amount given back to the renter. If the renter is the victim of a crime such as domestic violence or burglary, the property owner must comply with the tenant’s request for a lock change.

Renter’s duties

The tenants of rentals in Utah have their own rules to follow as well. According to Utah Code 57-22-5, renters must keep the premises clean and sanitary, cleaning up all garbage while complying with the rules of the board of health. They may not have more occupants than allowed and must “use all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, and other facilities and appliances in a reasonable manner”. They are expected to pay their rental payment on time and follow the rules outlined in their rental agreement which could include the prohibition of “smoking tobacco products within the residential rental unit, or on the premises, or both.” The tenants of a rental should not “destroy, deface, damage, impair, or remove any part of the ( . . . ) unit”. They are not to “interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of [other nearby renters]” and must allow the owners or management entrance for necessary repairs.

Failure to comply

If the owner or tenant fails to comply with their duties defined by state law, the other party could take civil action against the other. If damage is done to property or if injury occurs due to negligence of another, criminal charges could arise.

Corn Bait and Chumming on Utah Waters

Using corn when fishing in Utah has been against the law for several years, however the DWR has determined that corn bait is now allowed on select Utah waters while chumming is still not permitted.

Corn bait

Photo by: Doug Waldron

Corn is an inexpensive, yet effective bait choice for Utah fishermen yet was outlawed until the beginning of 2017 when the Department of Wildlife Resources made changes on the allowance of corn when fishing. It was previously believed that corn and hominy were harmful to fish and could result in gastrointestinal problems such as bloating and intestinal blockage, eventually leading to death. Through extensive research however, it has been determined that the only risk associated with using corn while fishing is an elevated chance of a fish taking the delicious corn bait.

Trial basis

Fishing Guidebook

Photo by: Dennis Sitarevich

In a type of trial run, the DWR is allowing corn bait to be used on select Utah waters known to have carp and kokanee salmon, both of which love corn. The 2017 Fishing Guidebook defines those corn friendly waters as: “Cutler Reservoir, Deer Creek Reservoir, Electric Lake, Fish Lake, Flaming Gorge, Lake Powell, Stateline Reservoir or Utah Lake”. They also note that “throughout the pilot study, Division biologist and law enforcement officers will be monitoring these areas closely to see if the use of corn should be expanded or discontinued.”

Chumming

Chumming

Photo by: James Mostert

Although using corn for bait is now allowed on a trial basis, chumming with corn is not. According to the current Fishing Guidebook, “Chumming means dislodging or depositing in the water any substance not attached to a hook, line or trap, which may attract fish.” Throwing a handful of corn or other bait in the water in hopes of attracting fish is a violation of Utah Code 23-20-3 which states “a person may not: ( . . . ) possess or use bait or other attractant to take protected wildlife”. Chumming could result in a class B misdemeanor charge as well as a violation and fine for littering in a waterway. Before heading out fishing this summer, residents are encouraged to read up on the 2017 Fishing Guidebook and contact the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources for any clarifications on current fishing laws.