This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah's affection for firearms in public places has made the state look a right fool in the global mass media over the last couple of days. It will pass. But it is a black eye we — or, at least, our elected officials — richly deserve.

Administrators at Utah State University Tuesday were forced to tell the truth about the 19th century interpretation their masters in the Utah Legislature have of the 2nd Amendment. Specifically, the guarantee that concealed-carry permit holders may tote their irons nearly everywhere, even into college lecture halls where, by the nature of such places, controversial speakers may be holding forth.

The result was a cycle or two of worldwide notice of Utah as the place where an outspoken woman who has been willing to face down death threats in more civilized climes would not feel safe. Not just in the state, but at one of the state's top institutions of education, where the freedom of expression should never be trumped by anything.

The invited speaker for Wednesday was to have been writer and social critic Anita Sarkeesian. Her evaluation of violent video games — specifically the way some game scenarios treat women as helpless, brainless or objects of sexual exploitation and violence — has made her the target of much online vitriol including, on occasion, death threats.

A particularly hateful email sent to various offices at USU Tuesday made specific threats of not just murder, but "the deadliest school shooting in American history," if Sarkeesian were allowed to speak. The author of the threat, apparently, views women — or, at least feminist activists — as a threat to men and so a legitimate target of mass murder.

That was a turn of events that, if nothing else, would seem to support Sarkeesian's point about a link between some video games and violent attitudes toward females.

Such twisted views have been an apparent motivation for mass murder in the past, and so should be taken seriously. Examples include Marc Lépine, who killed 18 people in order to "fight feminism" in Montreal in 1989, and Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in and around the University of California at Santa Barbara not six months ago.

USU officials were confident they could keep order. And Sarkeesian had said she would go through with her commitment until she was told that, under Utah law, armed permit-holders could not be excluded. Then she cancelled.

Sarkeesian, as an ambassador from the 21st century, was understandably worried that not only would a would-be assassin gain admittance to the hall under the cover of Utah's disturbingly lax standards for issuing weapons permits, but also that any number of untrained gun lovers might set up a crossfire that would cause even more bloodshed.

Utah's concealed-carry law is seriously flawed. At the very least, universities should be able to ban firearms from venues where they are not just inappropriate, but destructive of the mission of an institution of higher learning.

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