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Correction: Dixie State College had a shooting in an empty dorm room in the late 1980s, according to spokesman Steve Johnson. The names of the school and its spokesman were incorrect in a Tuesday story.
Monday's Virginia Tech campus shootings resonated with Utahns, especially those engaged in ongoing discussions over gun rights at state colleges and universities.
University of Utah President Michael Young, who unsuccessfully fought to prohibit guns at the U., said people "can't politicize these kinds of tragic events," because they can be used to argue for either expanded gun control nationwide or the need for more access to guns on campuses.
"Arming everybody is not the answer and disarming everybody isn't entirely possible, so you have to look for other solutions," Young said.
Concealed-weapon permit-holders are allowed to carry arms on college campuses in Utah, although a law passed this year by the Legislature enables students who live on campus to opt not to share dorm rooms with peers who have gun permits, Young said. Utah law prohibits anyone without a permit from taking guns on campuses.
The answer to preventing gun violence may be in identifying those who have "slipped the moorings," he said.
"We need to be looking for early warning signals and have public safety officers who are capable of responding quickly."
Virginia law doesn't allow guns on campus even with permits, said Clark Aposhian, the chairman of the Utah Self-Defense Instructor's Network, who lived in Virginia for a short time. As a result, no one will ever know what would have happened had concealed-weapon permit-holders been on campus, he said.
"In these multiple-victim shootings, when you deny the ability of lawful self-defense, there's no return fire until the police show up, and that's when people die."
Molly Metcalf, a U. senior studying political science, said she feels safer with concealed-weapon holders on campus.
"Obviously, the university itself can't protect us from shooting rampages . . . but when you allow those law-abiding citizens with permits to carry guns, there are people up there who can protect me in case of those emergencies," she said. Capt. Lynn Mitchell of the U. Police Department said his department is not doing anything differently in light of the Virginia Tech shootings because "there's nothing to do that we haven't already done."
"We've been working and practicing rapid-response techniques, and we'll critique the Virginia Tech police response just as we did with Columbine," he said.
He added that new rapid-response techniques led to the quick takedown of Sulejman Talovic at Trolley Square in February.
"There are always those kinds of lessons we're looking for" to lower the death toll in shooting rampages, he said.
Public safety officers at Utah State University in Logan also are reviewing their response, spokesman John DeVilbiss said.
"This has sent a chill across our campus," he said. "It is a worst-case scenario that has come to pass."
He echoed the U.'s Young, who said he feels "blessed" the Virginia Tech shootings didn't happen in Utah.
"This is extraordinarily tragic, and our hearts go out to everyone affected," Young said.
* SHEENA MCFARLAND can be contacted at smcfarland @sltrib.com or 801-257-8619.
Shootings on Utah campuses
* In 1993, student Mark Duong opened fire during a sexual harassment hearing at Weber State University in Ogden. Several were wounded, including the officer who shot Duong to death. That shooting led to a state law allowing schools to equip hearing rooms with metal detectors and designate them as gun-free zones.
* At Dixie State College in Cedar City, a male student shot one round into an empty dorm room in the summer of 1986 or 1987, spokesman Steve Johnson said. "It was a jealous-boyfriend-type situation," he said. "No one was hurt, and the shooter was apprehended immediately."