Will voice of Utah's gun lobby be muzzled?
Courts • Aposhian could lose firearms, livelihood if charged, convicted after arrest at ex-wife's house.
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Clark Aposhian's attorney says the face of Utah's gun lobby was simply "having fun in his big boy toy."

But if convicted of domestic violence after allegedly driving a 2-ton army surplus truck onto his ex-wife's property, threatening to "run over their cars" and "bury" her husband, Aposhian has a lot to lose. A conviction would force him to give up his arsenal of firearms, his concealed-weapons permit and concealed-carry instructor's license and, potentially, he could be stripped of his chairmanship of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, his influence in the Utah Capitol and his decadelong seat on the state's concealed-firearm review board.

"It would be ruinous to this man's profession," said Aposhian's attorney Mitch Vilos. "I would blame the Cottonwood Heights police for doing an incompetent investigation."

Aposhian and his attorney say the allegations — formal charges have yet to be filed — are meritless and they expect to successfully fight them.

Aposhian's ex-wife could not be reached Wednesday while calls to Cottonwood Heights police were not returned.

Aposhian declined comment Wednesday but on his Facebook page thanked friends for messages of support. "Under advice of counsel, I cannot say much," he posted, "but if you know me, you know that it would be highly unlikely for me to do anything even remotely akin to what I am being charged with. When this is done and over with I will explain in detail."

Aposhian has made other headlines of late. Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December, he has led two concealed-weapons permit classes to help arm Utah teachers. In March, his AR-15 assault rifle was stolen from his truck.

Jail documents following Monday's arrest show Aposhian was booked for trespassing, harassment, domestic violence, multiple traffic violations and failure to appear in court. A bench warrant hearing is scheduled June 4.

Custody dispute • Both Aposhian and his ex-wife — a neighbor reportedly two blocks away — told police the incident stems from an ongoing custody dispute over their 11-year-old daughter who was "scared," according to the probable-cause statement, and "afraid he was going to crash the big truck into the cars."

Police say just before 7 p.m. on Memorial Day, Aposhian honked an air horn then backed the army truck into the driveway — nearly hitting a parked jeep — instead of turning around in the cul-de-sac. He later returned in a red Dodge Magnum — with a bumper sticker reading "I am the gun lobby" — yelling about not doing any damage, police report. Aposhian, whose gun was confiscated at the scene, was arrested then released on bail.

"It was starting to get under his skin that he was being denied custody," said Vilos, the attorney. "But I'm trying to figure out why this family would go so ballistic for [him] backing into a driveway."

Vilos doubts the domestic violence accusation will result in conviction, arguing any exchange of words occurred between Aposhian and his ex-wife's husband, while the ex-wife and daughter were inside the house. The attorney is writing a letter to Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Robby Russo, demanding a more thorough investigation. He insists there are multiple witnesses — some not interviewed by police — who will say there were no threats. "It's a non-event."

Even so, the president of the Utah Shooting Sports Council notes the seven-member board will convene in closed session, likely next week, to discuss Aposhian's ongoing role as chairman.

What's next? • "We have to figure out what to do — does Clark need to step down? Does he need a little time off to resolve his personal issues?" explained Bill Pedersen. "Right now we don't have enough information to make a decision."

Pedersen says the behavior leading to the arrest doesn't make sense and is not in Aposhian's nature.

"It's totally strange," he said. "He doesn't drink; he's not an alcoholic. He's an outstanding individual in the community and we've all known what he's done on [Utah's Capitol] hill. I've had Clark in my home — he's a sharp individual. I don't even see a slow-burning fuse on this guy. I've never seen him go off on anyone."

If convicted of domestic violence, Aposhian could no longer legally own or possess a firearm, according to Scott Baker, investigator with the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification. That forfeiture also would strip Aposhian of his livelihood as a firearms instructor for people seeking concealed-weapons permits.

Since 2003, Aposhian also has sat on the state's Concealed Firearm Review Board, which hears appeals from Utahns who think they've been improperly denied a permit or instructor's license. The five-member board can overturn denials, suspensions or revocations, according to BCI firearms instructor Jason Chapman. He says BCI's attorney must decide if Aposhian's role poses a conflict of interest given Monday's arrest.

One of the shooting council's staunchest supporters, Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, had not heard about Aposhian's arrest when contacted.

"I suppose people may try to use it to disparage the right of gun ownership and those who profess to support that right," Greene said. "People have issues in their lives and we ought not to connect them to certain philosophies that they live by. It's like calling into question their religion."

djensen@sltrib.com