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Firearm Regulations

Firearm Regulations

Utah generally prohibits carrying a concealed firearm without a concealed carry permit including an unloaded firearm on the person or a firearm that is readily accessible for immediate use which is not securely encased in a vehicle, unless the vehicle is in the person’s lawful possession or the person is carrying the loaded firearm with the consent of the person lawfully in possession of the vehicle. Utah also generally applies the same restrictions on carrying a loaded handgun in a vehicle without the consent of the individual who is lawfully in possession of the vehicle, except for concealed carry permit holders.

However, no person may possess a loaded long gun in any vehicle. Subject to limited exceptions, Utah law also generally prevents individuals from enforcing restrictions on individuals’ ability to transport or store a firearm in a vehicle on any property designated for motor vehicle parking, if:
• the individual is legally permitted to transport, possess, purchase, receive, transfer, or store the firearm;
• the firearm is locked securely in the motor vehicle or in a locked container attached to the motor vehicle while the motor vehicle is not occupied; and
• the firearm is not in plain view from the outside of the motor vehicle.4 This rule does not apply, however, to school premises, government entities, religious organizations, and certain residential units.

Utah Gun Laws

Utah is a shall-issue state. Permits are issued at the state level by the Department of Public Safety. There is no permit, background check or firearms registration required when buying a handgun from a private individual. Although the state has pre-emption, Salt Lake County has established a policy that background checks for private sales in the counties three event facilities (Salt Palace Convention Center, Mountain America Expo Center and Salt Lake County Equestrian Park).

Open carry is legal in Utah if you have a concealed carry permit. The minimum age is 18 years old. Without a permit, you can only open carry a handgun if it is unloaded and at least two actions from being fired (e.g., rack the slide to chamber, then pull the trigger).

Concealed carry is legal with a license/permit. The minimum age is at least 21 years of age or 18 for a provisional permit. Utah Concealed Firearm Permits (CFP) are issued to residents and non-residents who meet the requirements. Some areas are off-limits, including courthouses and secured areas of airports. Concealed carry permits require a firearms familiarity course that has been certified by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). In terms of reciprocity, Utah will honor all other state or county permits.

Utah is a Castle Doctrine state and has a “stands your ground” law. The person using deadly force in defense of personal or real property is presumed for the purpose of both civil and criminal cases to have acted reasonably and to have had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury if the trespass or attempted trespass is unlawful and is made or attempted by use of force, or in a violent and tumultuous manner or for the purpose of committing a forcible felony. There is no duty to retreat if a person feels deadly force is justified to prevent a felony from being committed. The law applies in defense of real property or personal property at a person’s residence or any place where a person has a legal right to be.

Transporting Firearms and Ammunition

You may transport unloaded firearms in a locked hard-sided container as checked baggage only. Declare the firearm and/or ammunition to the airline when checking your bag at the ticket counter. The container must completely secure the firearm from being accessed. Locked cases that can be easily opened are not permitted. Be aware that the container the firearm was in when purchased may not adequately secure the firearm when it is transported in checked baggage.


• When travelling, comply with the laws concerning possession of firearms as they vary by local, state and international governments.

• If you are travelling internationally with a firearm in checked baggage, please check the Utah Customs and Border Protection website for information and requirements prior to travel.

• Declare each firearm each time you present it for transport as checked baggage. Ask your airline about limitations or fees that may apply.

• Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only. As defined by 49 CFR 1540.5 a loaded firearm has a live round of ammunition, or any component thereof, in the chamber or cylinder or in a magazine inserted in the firearm. Only the passenger should retain the key or combination to the lock unless TSA personnel request the key to open the firearm container to ensure compliance with TSA regulations. You may use any brand or type of lock to secure your firearm case, including TSA-recognized locks.

• Firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts and firing pins, are prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage.

• Replica firearms, including firearm replicas that are toys, may be transported in checked baggage only.

• Rifle scopes are permitted in carry-on and checked baggage.
Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 44, firearm definitions includes: any weapon (including a starter gun) which will, or is designed to, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; the frame or receiver of any such weapon; any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; and any destructive device. As defined by 49 CFR 1540.5 a loaded firearm has a live round of ammunition, or any component thereof, in the chamber or cylinder or in a magazine inserted in the firearm.


• Ammunition is prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage.

• Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be securely boxed or included within a hard-sided case containing an unloaded firearm. Read the requirements governing the transport of ammunition in checked baggage as defined by 49 CFR 175.10 (a)

• Small arms ammunition (up to .75 caliber and shotgun shells of any gauge) must be packaged in a fiber (such as cardboard), wood, plastic, or metal box specifically designed to carry ammunition and declared to your airline.

• Ammunition may be transported in the same hard-sided, locked case as a firearm if it has been packed as described above. You cannot use firearm magazines or clips for packing ammunition unless they completely enclose the ammunition. Firearm magazines and ammunition clips, whether loaded or empty, must be boxed or included within a hard-sided, locked case.

• Please check with your airline for quantity limits for ammunition.
Federal law sets the minimum standards for firearm regulation. Licensed gun sellers must carry out background checks on every buyer against an FBI database. Convicted felons, illegal immigrants and those with serious mental health problems are not meant to be allowed to purchase firearms. Individual states also have their own laws, such as on what kinds of weapon are allowed to be owned or carried in public.

What is ‘open carry’?

Some states have either prohibited or strongly regulated laws surrounding “open carry,” the carrying around of guns in public but, most have weakened their laws in recent years. Thirty-one states allow the open carrying of a handgun without any licence or permit, although in some cases the gun must be unloaded. Fifteen states require some form of licence or permit in order to openly carry a handgun.

What is ‘concealed carry’?

Concealed carry is carrying a weapon such as a handgun in a concealed manner, either on one’s person or nearby. Most states banned it in the 19th century as the practice of criminals, whereas open carrying was seen as legitimate for self-defence. A special permit was required for concealed carry, with only certain qualified people granted a license. Some areas can be declared “gun free zones”, allowing a business put up a sign that makes it is illegal to carry a concealed firearm on the premises.

Gun Regulation and Legislation in Utah

The concept of gun control, firearms’ potential to cause mass casualties, and the interpretation of the 27 words comprising the Second Amendment have evolved considerably since the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791. For instance, the National Firearms Act, which imposed a statutory excise tax on the manufacture and transfer of certain firearms and mandated registration of those firearms, was passed in 1934. This Act was challenged in 1939, which ultimately upheld the constitutionality of the National Firearms Act.

The opinion stated: “The Court cannot take judicial notice that a shotgun having a barrel less than 18 inches long has today any reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, and therefore cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees to the citizen the right to keep and bear such a weapon.” Opponents of gun control believe that additional laws or regulations on firearm purchases would not stop criminals from acquiring weapons or deter crime, and that regulations would trespass only against law-abiding gun owners who are exerting their Second-Amendment right. Further, many opponents of gun control believe that better enforcement of current laws and improved mental health services would be more effective in preventing mass shootings than passing additional laws. Conversely, those who favour stricter firearm regulation argue that it’s possible to enact regulations without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens to possess firearms. Proponents of these regulations believe that lives could be saved by requiring universal background checks at the federal level, mandating longer waiting periods between firearm purchase and acquisition, and implementing restrictions on certain types of high-capacity guns as well as limiting the amount of ammunition legally allowed to be purchased. In order to better understand firearms-related violence, calls to Congress have been made to fund the CDC specifically to perform research in this area. Thus far, Congress has refused to do so. Private foundations have attempted to fill the gap, but have encountered a congressional roadblock: the Tiahrt Amendments, which prevent the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from sharing its firearms-tracking database with anyone excepting law enforcement. Of course, this isn’t an all-or-nothing debate, and there are opinions all along the spectrum, from those few on the one hand who believe there should be no gun regulations at all to those few on the other who call for the wholesale repeal of the Second Amendment.

For example, some gun owners which recently made the choice to stop selling assault-style rifles and to sell firearms only to those over age 21, support the Second Amendment but simultaneously agree with Scalia’s statement that the Second Amendment “is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

Stand Your Ground Laws

Stand Your Ground, commonly known as “Castle Doctrine” laws that permit a person to defend themselves with deadly force and with no duty to retreat have been enacted in 27 states. These laws vary from state to state in the conditions that it may be used such as the degree of retreat, places covered and if there is any non lethal force required before using deadly force. Most of these laws will have some of the following conditions;

• An attempt to forcibly and unlawfully enter an occupied vehicle, business or residence.
• The intruder cannot have been provoked by the occupants of the home.
• There must be a reasonable belief by the occupants of the home the the intruder will cause death or serious bodily harm to them. There are a few states that allow stand your ground laws to be used for less serious felonies such as burglaries or arson.
• The intruder is required by most of these laws to be acting unlawfully.
• These laws cannot be used against law enforcement officers who are legally carrying out their duties. Such as when they are forcibly entering a premises to arrest a person.

To use the law occupants must be legally in the building or vehicle. If they are a fugitive or helping another fugitive then they cannot defend themselves with deadly force. Some states require that a person must first retreat if attacked and only use deadly force in there is no option of retreat or retreat would put the person in danger. If a Castle Doctrine law is in place a threatened person is not required to retreat from a place of work or their own house and in some states this extends to any place a person is legally entitled to be.

Firearms Attorney Free Consultation

When you need legal help with gun law in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506