Optional program launches for private gun sales checks

Jul 19, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: 6:51 pm

a person holds a gun -- a new program has launched for checks for private gun sales in utah...

FILE - A customer checks out a hand gun that is for sale on June 23, 2022, in Hempstead, New York. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman, File)

(AP Photo/Brittainy Newman, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Public Safety launched its online process for private gun sales checks on Wednesday.

Starting today in Utah, you can check whether the person you’re selling a gun to is even allowed to own one, but the check isn’t required. This is because of a bill that was approved by the legislature up on Capitol Hill earlier this year. 

The bill created a program for people making private gun sales to plug in someone’s concealed carry permit number and see if they’re what’s called a restricted person or simply put, even allowed to have a gun.

Loopholes left open

But if you ask Nancy Halden from the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah, there’s a pretty blunt loophole for people trying to source a firearm illegally.

“90% of Utahns want the loopholes in our background check system closed. But those people want a law, not a suggestion. And our big issue with this bill is that it suggests that people do a background check. Well, we know how people and suggestions go, it just doesn’t, it just doesn’t always pan out.”

According to Halden, not requiring this program to be used is where the problem lies.

“We like to say that we elect lawmakers to make laws, not suggestions.”

Against required checks

Rep. Cory Maloy, R-Lehi, was the bill sponsor and said requiring the check infringes on Second Amendment rights. Even if it is a restricted person.

“There’s laws against using firearms in criminal acts. And until someone commits a crime, it’s hard to say we have to infringe your rights or make your rights more difficult to utilize. When you haven’t committed a crime. A lot of people want to be able to have their Second Amendment rights so they can protect themselves against those very criminals that you’re talking about. There’s nothing here that I think would promote the sale of illegal firearms.”

Ermiya Fanaeian is from Armed Queers, an LGBTQI gun rights advocacy group, and she’s against increased background checks.

“I think in theory based on grades and in theory, they are meant to stop crime from happening or violence or happening. But the way we’ve seen them actually invoked by the United States government and states across the nation has been quite unjust. It’s been invoked against marginalized communities.”

But the optional side of this law means it’s not really keeping her up at night

“Kind of seems like something that neither satisfies those who are gun owners for the gun control lobby. It’s one that kind of is strange in a way that it seems very performative but seems like something that was introduced just to say something was being done.”

At the end of the day, the law is essentially an honesty policy that Maloy hopes will reduce gun violence.

“This allows those responsible gun owners to stay in that safe category where they haven’t unknowingly sold to someone who may be would commit a violent act,” Maloy said.

But that remains in doubt to some, like Halden.

“This bill is the perfect example of a good idea but a poor enactment of that idea to your account.”

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Optional program launches for private gun sales checks