The list of states that recognize the right to carry a concealed firearm without the need to have a permit stands to grow by two.
Moves are afoot in both Montana and Utah to pass statewide permitless carry legislation this year. In both Rocky Mountain states, lawmakers have in the past tried such moves only to be foiled by governors who were sour on the idea. This time, with new faces in new places, hopes are the story will have a different ending.
In Montana, House Bill 102 is currently undergoing committee hearings. While the Big Sky State recognizes open carry is legal without a permit, concealed carry without a state-issued permit is only allowed outside city limits. This would change under HB 102, dropping the city restrictions.
The state's Republican-led general assembly has thrice passed similar proposals over the past decade only to be vetoed by two subsequent Montana governors. The most recent of these was Gov. Steve Bullock, who was replaced last week by incoming Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte. While representing the state in Congress, Gianforte signed on to support nationwide concealed carry legislation and promised to do the same for the concealed carry of guns without a permit while campaigning for governor.
This session's bill, going past permitless carry, would also shrink the number of "gun-free" zones and establish campus carry provisions for the state's public colleges and universities.
In the Beehive State, Utah state Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, this week introduced HB 60. The bill provides that an individual who is 21 years or older and may lawfully possess a firearm may carry concealed in a public area without a permit. As with Montana, the bill isn't new, but the state's chief executive is.
Although the state legislature approved a permitless carry bill in 2013, Republican Gov. Gary Herbert torpedoed the proposal when it reached his desk. He has been reluctant to embrace one since. Critically, the long-serving Herbert has been replaced in office by Gov. Spencer Cox, who last week confirmed he is warm to the prospect.
"I think there are now something like 17 states that have some sort of constitutional carry or permitless carry, and so we would sign that bill," Cox told local media.
States with permitless carry laws include Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.