Utah has a reputation for being a hunting and gun friendly state. However, state law still prohibits convicted felons from owning guns, much in the same manner that federal law does. Due to both state and federal restrictions, one Salt Lake City gun charges lawyer says that individuals facing gun charges may not realize that they can face charges at both levels even though one act occurred.
Utah's Hunting Culture
Residents in Utah place a great deal of importance on guns and hunting. The state's tourism website touts the rich hunting opportunities in the state and many out-of-state residents come to Utah to obtain non-resident concealed carry permits for handguns.
Utah legislators even passed a bill in January 2011 designating the Browning pistol as the official state gun. As the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Carl Wimmer, told the Salt Lake Tribune "This firearm is Utah," and many Utah residents agree. Utah also celebrates the birth of John Moses Browning, the maker of the Browning pistol in with Browning Days celebrations. Rep. Wimmer has also pushed for changing the law to allow residents to carry handguns without needing a permit.
Not all Utah residents are free to own guns, however. Federal law prevents any felon from possessing a firearm or ammunition, either inside or outside his or her home. The law mandates a ten year prison sentence for those who violate it. The exception to this law is if the state in which the person resides has fully restored the individual's civil rights or pardoned or expunged the offense.
Those convicted of some misdemeanors - usually those involving domestic abuse - are also forbidden by federal law from possessing firearms. A misdemeanor domestic battery conviction prevents a person from legally possessing a firearm. If a person is the subject for an order for protection federal law also forbids him or her from owning a firearm.
Also restricted from owning or possessing firearms are persons caught with controlled substances such as marijuana, methamphetamines, cocaine, or heroine, or pharmaceutical drugs for which a person does not have a valid prescription. Possessing drugs and guns can lead to felony charges.
Utah State Penalties
In addition to federal charges for illegal gun possession, a person may face state criminal charges. Utah law forbids anyone who was convicted of a "crime of violence" such as murder, manslaughter, rape, kidnapping, child abuse, commission of domestic violence in the presence of a child and other offenses from owning a gun. Those who are on parole, probation or under indictment for these types of criminal charges are also not allowed to possess firearms under Utah law.
A person who violates these laws faces felony charges and could receive up to a 15 year prison sentence and a fine of up to $10,000.