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A prominent Utah gun rights advocate said the elementary school teacher injured when her gun went off in a bathroom Thursday bears the blame for the accident.
"It was a negligent discharge," said Clark Aposhian, a concealed carry permit instructor. "We are no apologist for improper weapon handling and we never will be."
Aposhian said it's highly unlikely the gun would have gone off if dropped, which means sixth-grade teacher Michelle Ferguson-Montgomery probably inadvertently pulled the trigger or had it in a pocket where a key or a pen got caught in the trigger.
"She made a mistake, but the key thing is the individual made a mistake," he said. "This is not a fault in training. It is not a fault in the policy and procedures of Granite School District."
State law allows concealed weapon permit holders to go into virtually all public spaces and legislators say that should not change.
In an online letter to parents after Thursday's accident, the principal of Westbrook Elementary urged those concerned about the law to talk to their legislator, and she offered the email addresses of state Sen. Wayne Harper and Rep. Jim Dunnigan, both Republicans.
Harper declined to comment Friday, other than to say he was unaware of the principal's letter and hadn't received much response from parents. Neither had Dunnigan, who said: "It is very concerning that a firearm was discharged in a school, particularly by a school teacher. Certainly I have questions about how it happened."
Gun owners need to take care when they are packing, Dunnigan said, but he doesn't think "one pretty isolated incident" should lead to changes in state law, a position seconded by Pleasant Grove GOP Rep. Brian Greene.
"There are going to be accidents," Greene said. "You have one accident, where nobody is hurt other than the person who was carrying the weapon, and people are acting like we have to change everything."
Even lawmakers who question the policy say it is unlikely that this incident would lead to a change in the law.
It would take an army of outraged parents, said Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay.
A former teacher, Moss proposed a bill in 2013 that would have required teachers with concealed carry permits to tell the principal at their school. Parents could then find out if their teacher had such a permit and remove their child from that class if they chose.
Moss' bill never received a hearing in the Republican-dominated House and she said if she ran the same bill in the 2015 session, she'd expect the same result.
Moss said she doesn't question the intentions of teachers who carry a concealed weapon, but she said it's a question of where it is appropriate to carry a gun.
"Which has the higher priority, parental rights or gun rights?" she said. "Really, that is what it is all about."
Miriam Walkingshaw with Utah Parents Against Gun Violence says this accidental discharge shows the danger of encouraging teachers to bring guns into the classroom.
"We have always said that the risks of this situation outweigh any proposed benefit," she said. "Having loaded guns in the hands of people with only two to three hours of training around children is risky. Accidents happen and yesterday's incident shows that."
Accident or not, it is possible Ferguson-Montgomery faces a criminal charge, said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill. He said an investigation is underway and could result in a charge if the teacher's actions increased the risk of harm.
"We would [ask] ... did you have a conceal and carry permit? Were you showing it off? What did you do to contribute to that? Does it rise to a level of negligence? Does it rise to recklessness?" Gill said.
Regardless of the details in this case, Greene believes the gun rights of teachers should not be altered. He said the vast majority of gun owners take safety seriously, but accidents happen, even for highly trained members of the military and experienced hunters.
"I think teachers who have concealed carry permits ought to be able to carry those at their place of employment," he said.
Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, agreed with Greene, but said this should be a reminder to gun owners.
"I think there is more of a personal responsibility to carrying a gun than simply having a permit," he said. "You have to carry safely and know how to use it."
Aposhian said the only training change firearm instructors should consider is more conversation about how to secure a firearm in a restroom.
Many people with concealed carry permits use some sort of waist holster and when using a toilet, they have only a few options. They can let the holster rest near their feet, take the gun out and put it in a pocket or take the gun out and put it on the top of a toilet. He said the safest route would be to leave the weapon in a holster.
In the meantime, he offered the injured teacher a free refresher course.