Utah has a long and proud tradition of gun ownership dating back to its early days as a frontier state. Even today, the gun laws in Utah remain some of the laxest in the country. Open carry is permitted in many instances, but many people wonder whether this extends to stores such as Walmart which have enacted corporate policies against open carry on their premises. Law-abiding gun owners might be unsure whether state law trumps a corporate policy such as this one, of if private businesses like Walmart really are permitted to ban open carry in their stores. Below, our experienced Salt Lake City gun possession defense lawyer at Overson Law, PLLC explains how open carry works in Utah and whether corporate policies like Walmart’s affect your gun rights.
Open Carry Laws in Utah Walmarts
Open carrying of firearms is permitted in Utah. Under most circumstances, the gun being openly carried must be unloaded. Unloaded under Utah law means that the gun must be at least two mechanical steps away from firing. No round or bullet can be in the chamber, although you are permitted to carry ammunition on your person.
In certain instances, open carry is permitted with a loaded gun. This includes in your own home, your own business, your own vehicle, and in someone else’s vehicle if that person has given you permission. There are also a few places under Utah code where open carry is never permitted, such as in K-12 schools, or in places of worship that have chosen to designate themselves as gun-free zones.
Do Utah Laws Trump Walmart’s Corporate Policy?
In September 2019, Walmart issued a new corporate policy in response to a recent mass shooting that had occurred in a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. Under this policy, Walmart announced that they were “respectfully requesting” that customers in their stores countrywide no longer openly carry firearms in their stores. Because Walmart did not outright ban open carry, there has been widespread confusion over whether this policy has any force.
Private businesses such as Walmart are permitted to deny service to any customer so long as it is not on the basis of race, gender, religion, or another protected group. Gun owners are not considered a protected group. Therefore, it would be within Walmart’s legal rights to ask customers who are openly carrying a firearm not to do so. If the customer refused, they have the right to ask them to leave the store and could call the police and charge them with trespassing if they refuse.
Many reports from around the country have noted that Walmart has not been particularly forceful about enforcing this new policy. Technically, they have not enacted an actual ban but merely made a request of customers. There is no signage outside of Walmart stores saying that you cannot openly carry a gun on the premises. Therefore, you may be within your legal right to open carry in a Walmart store. If, however, you are asked to leave and refuse to do so, you could face criminal charges. Our Salt Lake City weapons crimes lawyer can help.
Concealed Carry in Utah
Walmart’s policy only applies to open carry. Those who have a concealed carry permit are still permitted to bring their guns into the Walmart so long as the gun is concealed. For example, if the gun is in a backpack or purse or in a leg holster under your pants, this would be considered concealed carry.
In order to obtain a concealed carry permit in Utah, you must be 21 years of age, complete a criminal background check, and take an approved gun safety course. If you are between 18-20, you may be issued a provisional permit. The criminal background check is important because there is a list of restricted persons who are not permitted to own a gun under any circumstances in the state of Utah. Most restricted persons are restricted due to a past criminal history. A restricted person caught in possession of a gun in Utah will be charged with a felony and face harsh penalties including long jail sentences.
One thing to note is that, when you are given a concealed carry permit, you are also given the right to open carry a loaded firearm, rather than just an unloaded one. However, this is a situation that might bump up against Walmart’s corporate policy against open carry, even though you technically are open carrying under the protection of your concealed carry permit. Again, while Walmart’s policy does not appear to be consistently enforced, they are within their rights to ask you to leave their store if you are open carrying, even with a permit. Failure to comply can lead to criminal charges for trespassing.
Concealed carrying a firearm without a permit can also get you into serious trouble in Utah. Under Utah Code § 76-10-504, it is illegal to carry a concealed gun without a conceal carry permit. If the gun is unloaded, it will be charged as a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000. If the gun is loaded, it will be charged as a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and fines up to $2,500.
If You Have Been Charged with a Gun Possession Crime in Utah, Call Our Experienced Criminal Defense Team Today
While open carry (with an unloaded gun) is largely permitted in Utah, even in stores such as Walmart, the law can get a bit tricky when the stores set unclear policies requesting that guns not be openly carried on their premises. Furthermore, it is important to understand the limits of open carry and when a concealed carry permit is needed. If you have questions related to gun ownership or have been charged with a gun crime, our knowledgeable Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer at Overson Law, PLLC is ready and able to help. We will fight to make sure that your Second Amendment rights are protected. For a free consultation, call us today at (801) 758-2287.