A look at Utah gun laws, and why some lawmakers want focus to stay on education

May 25, 2022, 7:54 PM | Updated: 9:29 pm

How do Utah’s gun laws compare to the rest of the nation? It depends on who you ask.

Organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence would say it’s a weak point for the Beehive State.

And according to statistics each website lays out, the numbers aren’t the worst in the country, but they aren’t the best either.

“We’ve ranked it about the 17th worst state in the country for gun laws,” said Allison Anderman, senior counsel, and director of local policy at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “And it has a correspondingly high gun death rate. It’s about 20th in the nation.”

The center’s website breaks down what’s on the books in Utah, and what it isn’t.

According to the center, Utah has several gun laws worth noting:

  • Domestic violence gun laws
  • Certain open carry regulations
  • Certain child access prevention laws
  • Extended background check period
  • State database background checks

But, Anderman explained, there are many more they recommend:

  • Universal background checks
  • Gun owner licensing
  • Extreme risk protection orders
  • Assault weapon restrictions
  • Large capacity magazine ban
  • Waiting periods
  • Strong concealed carry law
  • Lost and stolen firearm reporting

Anderman said extreme risk protection orders allow a court to temporarily prohibit a person’s access to guns if they can be shown as being at a high risk of committing violence.

She said laws that require a person to get a permit to purchase or own a firearm, are associated with significantly reduced rates of homicide or suicide.

The background check system, she continued, has prevented millions of people from legally acquiring firearms each year.

Anderman stressed that there’s a strong correlation between gun access and gun suicide, because someone in a moment of crisis is more likely to end up using a gun if they have easy access to one.

“We have data to show that most of the policies that we advocate for are effective at reducing gun deaths, whether those are gun homicides, gun suicides, mass shootings,” she said.

State Representative Steve Eliason (R-Sandy) brought up another statistic when looking at gun deaths and gun violence in Utah.

“The number one cause of death for children in Utah is suicide, and typically that’s a firearm,” he said.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, which compiled CDC numbers  and averaged them out between 2016 to 2020, 83 percent of gun deaths in Utah were from suicide. 13 percent were homicide. Police shootings accounted for two percent of Utah gun deaths, with the remaining two percent being attributed to unintentional, or undetermined.

It’s that statistic Eliason has zeroed in on as a lawmaker, saying he takes an education approach for parents.

“There also have been numerous instances of school shootings where the shooter used their parent’s firearm that they had access to,” he said. “So, continuing the education about safely storing firearms, we’ve distributed hundreds of thousands of trigger locks, biometric gun safes– is something that we know that works.”

He said they’ve put a lot of resources into mental health aspects like school counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and the SafeUT app.

When asked if he thinks there are any laws Utah could pass or any legislation he thought was missing in relation to gun safety, Eliason said what the state can improve upon is continuing to educate parents to safely lock firearms away.

“When parents understand, ‘I can protect my child by safely securing my firearm,’” he said, “that’s when we’re going to see an even greater reduction in youth firearm deaths.”

One Utah Senator has proposed a bill, he believes, will cut down on gun violence. Utah Senator Derek Kitchen says now is the time to act. “Thoughts and prayers?” says Kitchen. “I’m sick of thoughts and prayers, we need action.”

His bill would increase the age to purchase a firearm in Utah from 18 to 21-years old. He says the people he represents want it, and he says research backs it.

“This morning I had a friend come to me sobbing,” says Kitchen. “She dropped her three-year-old off at daycare, looking him in the eyes, knowing that she could not protect him.”

While Kitchen says hit bill is simple, others aren’t willing to talk about changes to gun laws in the state. Representative Steve Eliason says the problem isn’t the guns, the problem likes in storage, education and mental health.

“Continuing the education about safely storing firearms, is a big part of Eliason’s solution. “We’ve distributed hundreds of thousands of trigger locks, biometric gun safes, it’s something we know that works.”

Everytown research, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country breaks down gun-law rankings by state on criteria like: domestic violence gun laws, certain open carry regulations, certain child access prevention laws and state database background checks.

Allison Anderman with Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence says Utah *doesn’t have many laws in place that would cut down on gun deaths. Things that include universal background checks, gun owner licensing, lost and stolen firearm reporting or extreme risk-protection orders. According to Anderman, those are all proven to lower gun violence.“We have data to show that most the policies we advocate for are effective at reducing gun deaths,” says Anderman.

Also, according to Giffords: a study of offenders incarcerated for crimes with firearms found that 17-percent wouldn’t have had access to a gun if the legal purchase age would have been 21. Data also suggests 18-20 year-olds account for only 4% of the U.S. population, but account for 17% of homicides.

Kitchen believes, if passed, his bill would save lives.

“We have a strong gun lobby in the United States and, at this point, we need to make sure we are protecting our children as firmly as we are protecting our guns.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

FILE -- This Feb. 8, 2017, photo, Utah State Crime Lab Director Jay Henry holds a sexual assault ev...
Daniella Rivera

Utah abortion laws unclear on reporting, verification process for sexual assault victims

Utah abortion bans require law enforcement and physicians to work together to help victims of sexual assault who are seeking abortion care, but KSL Investigators found the state has not established a uniform process to ensure that happens.
1 day ago
(Debbie Worthen/KSL TV)...
Matt Rascon

Two boys on a bike critically injured in South Jordan crash

Police say two children are in critical condition after an SUV driver hit them while they were in the bike lane on 11400 South in South Jordan.
1 day ago
Ormond Construction crews install secondary water meters in a subdivision in Woods Cross for the We...
Keira Farrimond and Dan Spindle, KSL TV

Metering Utah’s secondary water may help overuse in drought

During the driest months of the year, Utahns' yards can be a primary culprit for water overuse but there's one thing some water districts are seeing make a big difference in how much customers use: secondary water meters.
1 day ago
Candice Madsen, KSL TV

A more perfect Union: Former Sen. Joe Lieberman discusses the Constitution

At a troubled time in American politics, one man has a unique perspective, having been at the center of several key turning points.
1 day ago
FILE The views from Frey Peak in Antelope Island State Park in the Great Salt Lake, Utah. (Larry D....
Carter Williams, Deseret News

‘Art is a good teacher’: New public exhibit draws attention to the drying Great Salt Lake

Jacob Brooks' latest painting is quite simple, so simple that his 3-year-old son can understand the message Brooks is trying to convey: trying to save the Great Salt Lake.
1 day ago
Ogden police blocking off roads of Ogden-Weber Technical College after a bomb threat call....
Michael Houck

Police respond to bomb threat at Ogden-Weber Technical College, no device found

Ogden-Weber Technical College closed for the day after a bomb threat was made toward the campus Wednesday afternoon. 
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...

Utah Voters 50+ Support Increased Access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
A look at Utah gun laws, and why some lawmakers want focus to stay on education