SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Gun sales are soaring in Utah. The Department of Public Safety has performed nearly a quarter million background checks this year alone.
Walking down any Utah street, it’s safe to say someone is packing heat.
In fact more than 235,000 Utahns have concealed carry permits.
“I think it is more a question of preparation. Really getting it with the intent to never ever use, but it seems somewhat foolhardy to be under prepared for any sort of situation,” said Salt Lake City Resident Samuel Crum.
Lone wolf attacks have been carried out across the United States. Places like malls, sporting events, transportation centers and schools have all become targets. A reason Utahns like Emmett Bankston are arming themselves.
“I think of it as an insurance against the unexpected and unknown. The world is not a safe and tidy place, it can often be dirty,” he said.
Bankston isn’t the only one thinking this way.
Jason Chapman the Firearms Supervisor for the Bureau of Criminal Identification said, “The numbers aren’t one-to-one but roughly it looks like we can hit 220,000 background checks preformed from people trying to purchase.”
That’s the running total of people purchasing firearms for 2016 as of now.
There is no real number on how many firearms were sold because more than one gun can be bought for each background check in Utah. The state said there was a spike in gun sales last September.
“In gun sales this year, it looks like it is on track to be the highest year yet,” said Chapman.
To find out why gun sales are on the rise, Good4Utah went to Doug’s Shoot N Sports in Taylorsville.
Dave Larsen manages the store and has been around guns his whole life. He shares his theory on why gun sales are so hot.
“There is always a bigger demand for handguns but lately the tactical type rifles have been getting a lot of attention,” said Larsen. “I think there is a lot of anxiety in the market place and that has translated to a little bit of a spike in sales.”
The store sees a lot of first time gun owners. Larson said he won’t let them leave the store until a customer fully understand what they are buying.
“It is not the gun that makes a person act a certain way no more than it is the car that makes the driver drive it drunk,” Larson said.
The store offers classes for first time gun owners but one class that is packed every week is the concealed carry permit class.
So far, more than 80,000 people in Utah have applied for the class this year.
As of 2016 November 1st, the state said 679,300 people have valid Utah concealed carry firearm permits.
235,261 of those permits are held by Utahns. Nearly 65 percent or 444,039 of those permits are held by people from out of state.
“We have such a wide range of reciprocity,” said Chapman. “There are a lot of states that honor the Utah permit. And also, you don’t have to come to Utah to get our permit.”
In fact, 34 states accepts Utah’s CCP and want instructors who are certified to teach the Utah course to them.
“It is just nice to come together and get some actual real evidence. I feel like a lot of what we get legally and everything, that we pursue in our society is hearsay and it is nice to hear it from the horse’s mouth,” said Crum.
“If everything looks good, we mail them their card,” said Chapman.
It takes roughly 60 days to get the permit. 60 days Bankston believes is worth the wait to conceal carry.
“I have experienced a few things first hand that make me concerned for my safety and I want to make sure I don’t have those risks in the future,” he said.
Chapman adds, “You need to stay on top of the laws to know what you can and can’t do when you are carrying a concealed firearm.”
Knowing the laws for concealed or open carry is important.
“A non-permit holder can walk down the street with a visible handgun on their holster statutorily unloaded,” he said.
When asked about carrying a rifle down the street Chapman said, “But not a rifle.”
As far as places people gather.
“You can carry a firearm in the bar as long as the bar is okay with it. You just cannot become statutorily impaired or intoxicated while you have that firearm,” said Chapman.
It’s the same rule of thumb for businesses and shopping centers. If signs are posted or a company does not like you carrying your gun, it has the right to ask you to leave.
But what about schools?
“According to federal law you need to have a Utah concealed firearm permit,” said Chapman. “Our state law ok’s it one way or the other.”
Utahns are allowed to carry firearms in their vehicles.
“If you have a permit you can carry any loaded rifle, shotgun, handgun concealed anywhere in the vehicle. If you don’t have a permit you can only carry a loaded handgun in your vehicle,” Chapman said.
If your company doesn’t want you to have a gun on property and won’t supply a lock box or allow you to keep it secured in your car, Utah law states the employer needs to give you a secure monitored parking spot nearby.
But, laws change with every legislative session. Understanding them is just as important as understanding your firearm.
“You walk around in a world full of people who don’t always follow the rules so sometimes those people interact with you in ways that can be unpleasant and you don’t want to be in a position where you can have your rights compromised,” said Bankston.
There is a myth that law enforcement in the state cannot ask you if you have a firearm in your possession. Chapman said, if an officer feels like their safety or someone else’s safety is in jeopardy, they are allowed to ask if you have a weapon on you. And, you should be honest with them.