Without a doubt, open carry in Utah is legal. I base this on the following:
1) Utah State Law contains *NO* reference making OC'ing illegal
2) Utah State Law FORBIDS CC'ing (without a permit)
3) Utah State Law recognizes an individual's Right to keep AND BEAR arms (Utah State Constitution)
4) Utah State Law defines a "loaded" weapon as having a round in the chamber
5) Utah State Law states that a person can NOT carry a "loaded" weapon around in public
6) Therefore, in the absence of (1) and being forbidden to do (2), and considering (4) and (5), there is absolutely NO WAY a person can practice (3) WITHOUT being allowed to OC.
I also refer you to this link
which is an audio recording of the Utah State "House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee" debating HB473 on the 18th of Feb. It contains some of the most respected State Rep's and best-versed in the Utah State gun laws, along with the Utah State Attorney General, all testifying that Utah does and always has allowed OC (even though, they acknowledge, it has never been EXPLICITLY outlined). Particularly noteworthy is the USAG when he states (I'm paraphrasing here) that in general the legal system operates under the principle of "if it's not disallowed, it's allowed".
You are right that the PUBLIC OPINION is mixed. THAT is the need of HB473 -- because people just don't understand what that audio link clearly explains. Yes, according to the USAG, there are even POLICE DEPT's who are operating under the false notion that OC is illegal (he came right out and stated that that was one reason HB473 was needed).
Yes, the permit is called "CONCEALED" -- but if you read the law regarding the permit you will find that it does NOT state that you MUST conceal -- all it states is that you are EXCUSED from abiding by the statutes which DISALLOW CC.
The permit ALSO says "FIREARM" -- but, again, if you read the law you will find that it specifically allows for concealment of OTHER dangerous weapons, NOT merely firearms.
Another good point made by Clark Aposhian during that hearing I cited above is that the CC statute also allows a person to carry their weapon LOADED. But that DOESN'T mean we *HAVE* to carry loaded (just as allowing us to conceal DOESN'T mean we *HAVE* to conceal). He also pointed out that the permit allows us to carry ON SCHOOL PROPERTY. But , he argued, that doesn't mean that any time we are on school property we MUST BE carrying heat.
In other words, all the permit does is give us MORE OPTIONS. It doesn't REQUIRE anything.
Yes, according to the USAG, a few people have been arrested or cited for OC'ing. According to him, none have yet been found guilty.
Yes, our media needs education. They are no better, if not worse, than the general public on this issue.
HB473, IMHO, should be our rallying-point. I have been considering bringing this topic up but just haven't yet. A few months ago a thread was started on this forum of how to better "advertise" the forum and/or provide public-ed regarding our 2A Rights. I would like to suggest here that the time is ripe. The anti-2A'ers are going to be back next session. You can bet they'll have more HB473 tricks up their sleeves. I really think we should all consider how we might create a fund to drive a public-awareness campaign here in Utah. Yes, we could all pitch in some $$$, but I'm also sure that a lot more could be had from gun shops, pro-2A attorneys, legislators, NRA and other like-minded groups, etc.
(mind you, I'm not volunteering to lead the job... simply put, I just don't have the time being in school full-time+, but I *AM* willing to put my money where my mouth is and pitch-in)