* Utah offers easy concealed weapons licenses
* License costs $62.25
By Laura Zuckerman
SALMON, Idaho, June 28 Never shot a gun? Never
been to Utah? Got a "combat mindset"?
If yes to the above, you could qualify for a concealed gun
permit from Utah, which is seeing record demand for permits
from people all across the United States who never been to the
state and have no intention of ever going.
Bedrock conservatism is enjoying a surge with the rise of
the Tea Party movement, which advocates small government,
individual rights and has made a strong showing in Utah. The
debate may become only hotter after a Monday U.S. Supreme Court
ruling extended gun rights to all cities and states.
Spurred by fears that U.S. President Barack Obama will add
gun control to his already crowded domestic agenda, denizens of
the once-wild West and other Americans are snapping up firearm
permits. Some 90 million people in the United States have an
estimated 200 million guns.
Utah makes it easy, and thousands have enrolled in classes
promoting its concealed weapons license to people from other
states, many of whom have never been to Utah and never intend
to go there.
Salmon, Idaho resident Bruce Smith just took an Idaho-based
Utah permit course that would let him carry in Idaho, Utah and
31 other states. Course provider Ericsson Investigations on its
Web site promises to teach laws, gun safety and "the combat
"I'd hate to be without backup," Smith said. The course did
not include shooting a gun but did show how to load one.
A five-year permit good in 33 states has flooded Utah with
applications, with the number rising to 74,000 last year. The
fee is $65.25. Applicants must also clear a background check,
be 21, and take a course.
Today, more out-of-state residents have Utah licenses than
state residents, and out-of-state instructors outnumber those
Utah's program alarms gun control groups like the Brady
Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
"It's a state where they don't seem to care about the
consequences that may arise from some of the permits they're
issuing," said spokesman Peter Hamm.
OUT OF STATE CLASSES
Texas and other gun-friendly states require gun permit
classes to be based in their state, which Utah does not. Utah's
licenses are valid in more states than most, too. Idaho permits
are valid in only four other states -- one eighth the number
with which Utah has agreements.
Not all states are happy with Utah's plan. Western
neighbors New Mexico and Nevada in recent months have revoked
recognition of Utah's licenses because it doesn't oblige
applicants to train with a handgun or even fire one.
With the state poised to become the de facto national
supplier of such permits, officials with the Utah Bureau of
Criminal Identification say they are overwhelmed.
"The only people making money off it are the instructors,"
said Lt. Doug Anderson, manager of the concealed firearms
More Americans than ever believe they need to carry a
concealed weapon, and the sentiment is widespread in Western
states, where historic settlement saw justice dispensed at the
end of a gun barrel.
The pattern strengthened when Obama was elected president.
Pro-gun activists emphasized that Obama was from Illinois, one
of two states that forbid carrying concealed weapons.
"With the change in administration from Bush to Obama,
people became concerned there would be additional gun-control
legislation," said Idaho-based firearms instructor John Kie.
"That hasn't played out but the fear is there."
Concealed-carry permits in states like Colorado, Montana,
Idaho and Texas are jumping.
"Obama and all of them are just trying to take away our
rights," said Salmon Mayor John Miller, a self-described gun
activist. "I believe in guns. Idaho, Montana, all the Wild West
states, we're not giving up our guns."
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman, editing by Peter Henderson
and Alan Elsner)