Utah concealed gun permit sales surge to record high

By Dennis Romboy and Whitney Evans, Deseret News

Published: Wed, Oct. 16, 2013, 1:35 p.m. MDT

 Ross McGarvey, left, and David McWilliams practice their target shooting at the gun range at \

Ross McGarvey, left, and David McWilliams practice their target shooting at the gun range at "Get Some" Guns and Ammo in Murray on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. McGarvey said that he expects within the next six months to obtain his concealed-carry permit.

(Matt Gade, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Deadly mass shootings and talk of gun control around the country drove applications for Utah's concealed weapons permit to a record high.

The state Bureau of Criminal Identification has already issued 31,000 more permits through August than it did all of last year, and is projecting a total of 138,720 for 2013.

In addition, BCI ended the 2013 fiscal year with a $2.3 million revenue surplus, prompting at least one state lawmaker to wonder whether the state is charging too much for the permit. Utah residents pay $46 and nonresidents pay $51. The renewal fee is $15.

BCI chief Alice Moffatt said the agency had "bins and bins" of applications in February, March and April when the numbers swelled to more than 18,000 per month. She attributed the surge to last year's shootings in Connecticut and Colorado and gun control legislation.

"That seems to spur people getting their concealed weapons permits," she told the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee on Wednesday.

Permit renewals will exceed 40,000 this year, a 42 percent increase, Moffat said.

Non-Utahns hold 62 percent of the state's 325,293 valid permits. Thirty-five states recognize Utah's concealed weapons permits.

Weapons instructor Jack Arguello said he saw a "big increase" at the beginning of the year in his course enrollment in Davis County, with five times more people enrolling than in previous years. He attributed the increase to what he called the "anti-gun rhetoric."

Adam Eaton, co-owner of Joe Firearms, said he has seen the pattern of business picking up when the public perceives that gun control laws could change.

"You're getting knee-jerk reactions and you're getting people panicking," he said.

His store sold 50 guns in 2012 but has sold 200 so far this year.

Sister company Joe Academy on average sees eight to 10 people attend each weapons training course. In February and March, their courses saw up to about 60 people per session, Eaton said.

Part of his company's goal is to educate the public on gun safety, he said, covering subjects such as gun safety around children and compliance with local laws.

"It's kind of a big deal. It's not something you take lightly," he said.

BCI took in more than $5 million in the budget year that ended June 30. After operating expenses, it was left with $2.3 million in revenue.

Rep. Richard Greenwood, R-Ogden, said the state never intended to make money on concealed weapons permits. He suggested possibly reducing the fee for Utah residents.

Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, said the Legislature cut the fee dramatically over the years and the revenue surplus was an anomaly.

Moffat said permit applications started slowing down to 7,000 to 10,000 a month in July and BCI is projecting it will make $2 million less in the current fiscal year.

Lawrence Mudgett is co-owner of Marksmanship Matters, where he and his wife teach self-defense with firearms and concealed carry courses. Mudgett said business has increased steadily over the years.

Mudgett compared gun education and ownership with food storage and financial preparation, saying that it is another element of self-reliance.

"People are starting to realize and understand that they can't depend on other people for their security," he said.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy; DNewsPolitics

1. DN Subscriber 2
Oct. 16, 2013

Take the $2.3 million surplus paid by gun owners and make a one time appropriation for grants to build or improve shooting ranges, especially near population centers where places to shoot are limited.

Otherwise, make the next 41,000 permits and renewals FREE since BCI already has collected enough money to pay for them. Or make permits and renewals FREE for all Utah residents and eventually when they no longer show a surplus, reinstate the Utah resident fees.

Under no circumstances just dump this money into the general fund!

2. Call2Action
Thatcher, UT,
Oct. 16, 2013

Utah has a very high percentage of people with a CC permit, which I see as a good thing and a deterrent to crime. I am wondering what the percentage of adults with permits is. I'm guessing it is about 35%, but I don't know for sure since I don't know how many of the 2.8M residents are over 21.

3. Hutterite
American Fork, UT,
Oct. 16, 2013

The fear a few have of a dystopic future is preventing us from dealing with our dystopic present.

4. Happy Valley Heretic
Orem, UT,
Oct. 17, 2013

Two folks at my work recently got theirs, guess what they have in common?
They listen to the same paranoid radio rants daily and fear sells, is Obama coming for your guns ...still? hahahah
The chances of you having to use your gun to defend yourself are the same as you being hit by lightning, unless you put yourself in dangerous circumstances on purpose, like carrying a lightning rod.

For the record I own several guns, I'm just not a fool easily parted with his money thru paranoid radio entertainers, and gun manufacture lobbyist like the NRA, who's job is, drum roll ....selling guns and gun paraphernalia.

5. Bubba Royce
Port Charlotte, FL,
Oct. 18, 2013

How many CC folks are determined not to be a victims and carry there weapon into the places that gun restrictions. I for one am protected by the second amendment. The solution to gun violence is through education and training of our children not the fear mongering that comes from Washington and promoted by the media. Better to have a gun and not need it than the other way around.