SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah gun owners would be able to carry concealed weapons without a permit under a bill that passed the state Senate on Friday, leaving one procedural vote before it heads to the desk of a supportive Republican governor.
Several other states this year are considering similar measures, which are backed by gun-rights groups like the National Rifle Association. Tennessee's governor has also supported the idea.
Utah now requires people to take a weapons course and undergo a background check and get a permit to legally carry a gun in public hidden under a jacket or inside a purse. Gun-control groups say those are steps that are supported by many gun owners and keep people safer.
But opponents say the permit system is ineffective on ensuring safety and having to get a permit undermines citizens' rights to defend themselves if needed.
"Criminals have guns, and they're going to conceal and do with them what they do," GOP Sen. David Hinkins said. "All this does is (for) law-abiding citizens, this allows a woman to put it in her purse or a man to put it in his jacket."
Opponents have also objected to the removal of required education on weapons and suicide prevention.
"It's unacceptable that our lawmakers passed a bill to gut suicide prevention training when nearly 85 percent of Utah's gun deaths are suicides," said Mary Ann Thompson, a leader of the Utah chapter of Moms Demand Action, in a statement. Lawmakers have put aside some resources for suicide prevention and weapons education. The permit system would still exist for people who choose to get one.
The bill now goes back to the House to approve minor revisions. At least 15 other states already allow concealed carry without a permit. Republican Gov. Spencer Cox has said he supports the idea.