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.

Results of Ballot Initiatives that May Surprise You

The ballots have been cast and the voters have decided; here are some initiatives from around the nation with results that may surprise you.

Photo by: Kelly Minars

Photo by: Kelly Minars

Legalization of marijuana

Some feel the legalization of marijuana is an issue that should’ve been resolved on a national level long ago. As it stands however, marijuana laws differ by state.

Marijuana Initiatives

Photo by: Chuck Coker

• Before Tuesday’s polls, medical marijuana was legal in 18 states; that number is currently 22. Now residents of Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota who are suffering from medical conditions such as epilepsy, glaucoma, and chronic pain will now be able to use medical marijuana that includes the psychoactive ingredient THC to help treat their symptoms.

• For those who wish to have the plant for leisure use: California, Nevada, and Massachusetts voters have joined with those in other states including Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington (and Washington D.C.) by voting in majority of initiatives that legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Maine could join that list, but currently is 50/50 while they wait for the 2% that haven’t reported yet. 52% of Arizona voters chose to stick with medical marijuana only while Utah didn’t even have marijuana on the ballot; the beehive state currently allows limited medical marijuana only along with 14 other states.

Death penalty

Capital punishment continues to be a sensitive issue. Many believe that those offenders who are found guilty of the most heinous of crimes should be removed from existence while others don’t believe taking a life is ever okay. Three states had initiatives on the ballot regarding the death penalty:

Photo by: Global Panorama

Photo by: Global Panorama

• California voters chose to not only keep the death penalty, but to hasten the time it takes for executions to be carried out.

• Residents in Oklahoma chose to protect the death penalty by amending the state constitution and giving lawmakers the option to choose other methods of execution if needed.

• The people of Nebraska chose to bring back the death penalty after their state legislature voted to abolish it just last year. Nebraska rejoins 30 other states that currently support the death penalty.

• The death penalty was not on the ballot for Utah where it is legal and usually carried out by lethal injection. The firing squad is another option however, with this method being used last in June of 2010 for the capital punishment of Ronnie Gardner.

Gun laws

With the countless incidents around the country where innocent people have lost their lives at the hands of crazed individuals wielding guns, some states chose to add initiatives to the ballots which toughen laws regarding gun control.

Photo by: frankieleon

Photo by: frankieleon

• 63% of California residents voted “yes” on proposition 63 which would require background checks on individuals purchasing any ammo and outlaw the possession of large capacity magazines.

• Residents in Washington State voted to allow judges the right to limit a person’s access to firearms temporarily if a family member or roommate of said person states they are displaying signs of behavioral or mental instability which may lead to a greater chance of them hurting someone including themselves.

• By a very slim margin, Nevada voters chose to require background checks for all sales of firearms.

• Maine was the only state with initiatives regarding gun laws on the ballot that chose not to toughen those laws. 52% of Maine voters chose to allow sales of guns between two parties, even if neither one is a licensed dealer.

• Utah is one of the states with more lenient gun laws and it will likely stay that way a while as nothing was included on the 2016 ballot. Currently Utah does not require background checks for gun purchases, has Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws, as well as allows open carry without a permit as long as firearms are not loaded.

Other noteworthy initiatives

With hundreds of initiatives on the ballots nationwide, there were a few that caught the attention of residents and media nationwide:

Ballot Initiatives

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• Minimum wage increase. Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington all had initiatives to increase the minimum wage with Arizona and Washington also including paid sick leave for employees. South Dakota tried to decrease the minimum wage for employees under the age of 18 years old but that initiative was highly rejected.

• Assisted suicide. Colorado joined California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington by voting “yes” to allow terminally ill patients of sound mind the right to end their lives by taking lethal drugs prescribed to them by a physician.

• Condoms for porn stars. 54% of California residents voted “no” to requiring actors in porn films to wear condoms during sex scenes. Perhaps the other parts to Proposition 60 that required film producers to obtain a health license and pay for numerous medical necessities of their paid actors is what drove voters to not pass the initiative.

For more information on the initiatives and poll results for the state of Utah, go to .

Deadly Force Justified in Utah- Legally Defending Self and Home

The majority of states have laws in place that protect residents and homeowners if they ever need to use deadly force while defending their self or home. Since the laws differ from state to state, it is important for individuals to understand exactly what their rights are in their state if they feel threatened by another person.

Stand your ground



Many states including Utah have a law in place that allows a person to use deadly force to defend themselves against an attacker as long as they are someplace where they are legally allowed to be and not voluntarily in a relationship with the attacker. This is called a Stand Your Ground law. According to Utah Code 76-2-402, “A person is justified in using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if the person reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the person or a third person as a result of another person’s imminent use of unlawful force, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

Duty to Retreat

Photo by: bark

Photo by: bark

Other states that do not have Stand Your Ground laws may have a contrary rule called Duty to Retreat. While Utah doesn’t have Duty to Retreat laws presently, there is discussion about it in the future. Duty to Retreat laws require that individuals make an effort to leave a situation in which they feel in danger or threatened. If a person tries to retreat but is unable to get away successfully, then they are justified in using deadly force to keep themselves from being harmed. If the threatened individual makes it inside their own home, the laws again differ depending on what state they are in. Some states argue that a home is a “safe zone” and therefore once inside, the threatened individual cannot use deadly force to protect themselves. This is not the case in Utah, as they have laws to justify homeowners who use deadly force if they are threatened when at home.

Castle Doctrine

Photo by: Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue

Photo by: Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue

Castle laws, otherwise known as Castle Doctrine are laws that allow homeowners to protect their self and home from threatening individuals who are attempting to break into their residence. Utah has a version of castle doctrine in place called “force in defense of habitation”. There are stipulations about how and when this would apply however. Utah Code 76-2-405 states that a resident is justified in using deadly force when:
“He reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon his habitation; however, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if:

(a) the entry is made or attempted in a violent and tumultuous manner, surreptitiously, or by stealth, and he reasonably believes that the entry is attempted or made for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person, dwelling, or being in the habitation and he reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent the assault or offer of personal violence; or

(b) He reasonably believes that the entry is made or attempted for the purpose of committing a felony in the habitation and that the force is necessary to prevent the commission of the felony.

(2) The person using force or deadly force in defense of habitation is presumed for the purpose of both civil and criminal cases to have acted reasonably and had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury if the entry or attempted entry is unlawful and is made or attempted by use of force, or in a violent and tumultuous manner, or surreptitiously or by stealth, or for the purpose of committing a felony.”

Utah’s Castle Doctrine also applies to any building or structure that is attached to the property where someone may be inside such as a garage or a shed. Deadly force is not justified during the theft of personal property unless someone is inside that property and feels threatened such as a carjacking of a vehicle that is occupied.

Be informed about defense rights

Photo by: F Deventhal

Photo by: F Deventhal

It is important to study and be informed about rights regarding defending self or home. Therefore if the time ever came that an individual felt the need to use deadly force, they would feel confident in defending their actions. For those who are up-to-date about laws regarding when it’s acceptable to legally defend self or home, a criminal defense attorney would still be a wise addition to any criminal proceeding regarding justified use of deadly force.