Local Authority to Regulate Firearms in Utah

Posted on January 1, 2012

Last Updated April 1, 2011

Pursuant to Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-500(2), adopted in 1999, “[u]nless specifically authorized by the Legislature by statute, a local authority or state entity may not enact or enforce any ordinance, regulation, or rule pertaining to firearms.” Section 78B-4-511 reiterates this policy, stating that “all authority to regulate firearms is reserved to the state through the Legislature.”

Section 53-5a-102, adopted in 2004, also elaborates upon this policy. It provides, in part:

(2) Except as specifically provided by state law, a local authority or state entity may not:

(a) prohibit an individual from owning, possessing, purchasing, selling, transferring, transporting, or keeping a firearm at the individual’s place of residence, property, business, or in any vehicle lawfully in the individual’s possession or lawfully under the individual’s control; or

(b) require an individual to have a permit or license to purchase, own, possess, transport, or keep a firearm.

(3) In conjunction with Title 76, Chapter 10, Part 5, Weapons, this section is uniformly applicable throughout this state and in all its political subdivisions and municipalities.

(4) All authority to regulate firearms is reserved to the state except where the Legislature specifically delegates responsibility to local authorities or state entities.

(5) Unless specifically authorized by the Legislature by statute, a local authority or state entity may not enact, establish, or enforce any ordinance, regulation, rule, or policy pertaining to firearms that in any way inhibits or restricts the possession or use of firearms on either public or private property.

(6) As used in this section:

(a) “firearm” has the same meaning as defined in Subsection 76-10-501(9); and

(b) “local authority or state entity” includes public school districts, public schools, and state institutions of higher education.

(7) Nothing in this section restricts or expands private property rights.

Section 10-8-47 specifically grants city boards of commissioners and city councils the authority “to regulate and prevent the discharge of firearms..” Sections 76-8-311.1 and 76-8-311.3 allow correctional, law enforcement, and mental health facilities to prohibit or control firearms and ammunition.

In Univ. of Utah v. Shurtleff, 2006 UT 51, 144 P.3d 1109, the Utah Supreme Court held that the University of Utah was subject to section 53-5a-102(5). The court held that the University’s policy prohibiting students, faculty, and staff from carrying firearms on campus did not infringe on the legislature’s right under article I, section 6 to “defin[e] the lawful use of arms,” because the University’s policy was contractual rather than legislative in nature. However, the court held that article X, section 4 of the Utah Constitution, which confirms the rights held by public universities and colleges at the time of statehood, does not prevent the application of section 53-5a-102(5) to the University.

The State Board of Regents may “authorize higher education institutions to establish no more than one secure area at each institution as a hearing room…but [may] not otherwise restrict the lawful possession or carrying of firearms.”1 The Board has authorized all Utah State Higher Education institutions to establish these areas.2 The Board may also authorize higher education institutions to make a rule allowing a dormitory resident to request only roommates not licensed to carry a concealed firearm.3

A person who operates or uses a shooting range is not subject to civil liability or criminal prosecution for noise or noise pollution from the range if the range does not substantially and adversely affect public health and safety, and either was established, constructed, or operated before the implementation of any noise ordinances, rules, or regulations or is in compliance with any noise control laws, ordinances, rules, or regulations that applied at that time.4 Each state agency or political subdivision must ensure that any of its rules or ordinances that define or prohibit a public nuisance exclude any shooting range established, constructed, or operated before the implementation of the rule or ordinance unless that activity or operation substantially and adversely affects public health and safety.5

  1. Section 53B-3-103(2)(ii)(A); Utah Admin. Code r. 765-254-3. []
  2. R. 765-254-3. []
  3. Utah Code Ann. § 53B-3-103(2)(ii)(B). []
  4. Section 47-3-3(2). []
  5. Section 47-3-3(1). []