Out-Of-State Gun Buyers Target Utah

Utah has a booming business in concealed firearms permits. The state has issued nearly 250,000 permits — nearly half of which are held by non-residents. Robert Siegel talks to gun lobbyist Clark Aposhian, a former chairman of Utah's Concealed Weapons Review Board.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In 2004, the state of Utah received about 8,000 applications for concealed firearm permits. Last year, almost 74,000. There are nearly a quarter of a million such permits that have been issued by Utah. And nearly half of them are held by nonresidents of the state. Thirty-two other states recognize Utah permits.

And joining us to explain their popularity now is Clark Aposhian, who sits on Utah's Concealed Firearms Review Board. Until January he was chairman. He's also a gun lobbyist and a concealed weapons trainer. Welcome to the program, Mr. Aposhian.

Mr. CLARK APOSHIAN (Gun Lobbyist, Former Chairman, Utah Concealed Firearms Review Board): Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: And is it fair to say that people apply for Utah gun permits because they're cheap and easy to obtain?

Mr. APOSHIAN: That is a component, yes. Those two are components. I think that it's because other states, more states than any other 32 other states have recognized Utah's permit for various reasons. That's where the value in it lies. I think people would pay triple or quadruple for this permit if it had the same number of states recognizing it. So it's not there are states that are cheaper that are nowhere near as popular.

SIEGEL: But it's not a budget buster. It costs, what, about $62 to get a permit?

Mr. APOSHIAN: Yeah, $65.25. Utah gets to keep 35 of those dollars. The other $30 goes to the feds for checking our fingerprints.

SIEGEL: And all that your require of people is that they take a class, I guess by somebody who knows the curriculum for Utah, and that they satisfy that gun safety course.

Mr. APOSHIAN: It's not just somebody that satisfies the curriculum, they have to be a certified Utah state firearms instructor for a concealed carry. So we are very specific as to who can teach these classes and certify people.

SIEGEL: But here's an odd point here: To get a Utah permit, not only do you not to have to live in Utah, you never have to show up in Utah.

Mr. APOSHIAN: That is correct.

SIEGEL: Well, why does Utah want to extend licenses to so many people, permits to people who've never been to Utah?

Mr. APOSHIAN: We don't feel at least I personally don't feel that that's the way the legislature has designed this. But we don't think that the right of lawful self-defense should be dependent on a state's borders.

SIEGEL: And so, Utah is stepping up to be the gun permit issuer of choice for people all over the country, you say.

Mr. APOSHIAN: Well, I'll tell you, that's never been our goal. Our goal was to provide a permit which would satisfy Utahans in Utah. Utah makes no claim of recognition beyond the state of Utah. Other states have stepped up and said, we will recognize Utah's permit. We don't have any say in that whatsoever.

SIEGEL: But you could if you chose decided to make this available only to residents of Utah, couldn't you?

Mr. APOSHIAN: We could do that, yes. But we just don't see that that's necessary. We're a big tourist destination state. We would like people to have the ability to protect themselves when they're hiking up our canyons or in any of our national parks or in our cities. And we have not seen any problem with the Utah permit holders conduct or out-of-staters' conduct.

SIEGEL: The gun safety class that qualifies people for the Utah permit, as I understand it, does not require any actual shooting. And your successor as chairman of the concealed weapons board told us today, and I quote, some of us believe very strongly that we should have a live shooting portion to the concealed weapons class. Without any live shooting, how can the state of Utah vouch that people with your permits know what they're doing with a gun?

Mr. APOSHIAN: Well, that's true. The only thing that's lacking is a live round to be put in the chamber and the gun to go bang in there. And this is a perception that it's a problem. Perception is not reality. Again, we don't see any pattern of problems with Utah permit holders conduct in the state of Utah or across this nation where the permits are recognized.

SIEGEL: Mr. Aposhian, just broadly, with over 100,000 people out there who have Utah permits and don't live in Utah and may not be coming to visit Utah anytime soon, do you feel that as a member of the board you can vouch for everybody who has got a Utah gun permit around the country?

Mr. APOSHIAN: No more than we can vouch for anyone else who's going to commit a criminal act or do something incorrectly. I mean, we do what we can, but I don't think it's our job to vouch for them. We're not giving them a permit to use the firearm, we're giving them a permit to conceal a firearm and that is it.

SIEGEL: Well, Clark Aposhian, thank you very much for talking with us about it.

Mr. APOSHIAN: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Mr. Aposhian sits on the Utah's Concealed Firearms Review Board. He is also a concealed weapons trainer and also head of the big gun lobby in the state of Utah.

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