This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
About a dozen gun control advocates at Utah's Capitol Friday asked state lawmakers and the governor to rethink the state's campus gun policy.
The state law that prohibits public colleges and universities from blocking students, visitors and others from bringing weapons to class squelches free speech, they said.
Utah's rule drove feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian to call off a lecture at Utah State University last month amid anonymous threats of a deadly school shooting.
At the Capitol, advocates said special exceptions should be made for such large-scale events, or Utah's colleges will lose out on big-ticket speakers.
"I think a campus is the wrong place for guns," said Kathryn Fitzgerald, a retired USU English professor.
Momsrising.org and the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus presented copies of an online petition they say has 20,000 signatures from people nationwide to Gov. Gary Herbert's staff. The online signature-gathering highlights Sarkeesian's decision to cancel her speech in Logan.
"Sarkeesian's right to speak up about violence against women has been violated. She's been silenced by Utah's campus gun law that prevents reasonable precautions for securing her safety and the safety of college-age kids," the web campaign states.
But others disagree.
Utah Shooting Sports Council Chairman Clark Aposhian characterizes the petition as an "emotional response to a problem that just doesn't exist."
Lawful gun owners "have a pattern of acting responsibly and with decorum," he said. "Our background is checked every 24 hours."
State Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, has pushed for guns on Utah campuses for years. Last month Oda said that if anyone were to open fire during Sarkeesian's speech, armed audience members could thwart the violence.
"I think she's overreacting," he told the Tribune in October.
Gun control advocates provided a sampling of quotes from Utahns who signed the petition, but the online list is closed and does not include last names.
"Even the U.S. Supreme Court does not interpret the Second Amendment to restrict government from enacting gun-control legislation for the purpose of protecting free speech and students and staff in education institutions," wrote Gary G. from Salt Lake City. "The gun-rights-uber-alles Utah legislators need to re-evaluate the role of guns on college campuses vis-a-vis First Amendment rights."
Dee Rowland, chairwoman of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah, said she and other advocates met Friday with one of the governor's staff members, who was "polite."
Rowland and local representatives of the national groups are asking the governor and legislators to reverse a 2004 law that prohibits state colleges from restricting packing on campus.
"We would want the universities to use their judgment and not to have a ban that prevents them from doing that," Rowland said.
Fitzgerald, the retired USU professor, acknowledged that the push faces long odds: At least one lawmaker is seeking to strengthen concealed carry laws on campus.
But, she said, the Sarkeesian effort shed light on where Utah law could fall short in protecting students, educators and others.
"I'm hopeful," Fitzgerald said.