This is an archived article that was published on in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As the debate over guns on Utah college campuses raged during the 2007 Legislature, lobbyists on both sides quoted statistics and provided scenarios to prove that allowing guns would have either worsened or improved a hypothetical campus crime.

But crime data obtained under the Clery Act, which requires all campuses to report crime statistics to the federal government, shows few incidents between 2001 and 2005 when weapons were found or used on campuses, and in those few incidents, rarely were students involved.

No incident reported during the five-year period involved a student brandishing a gun in a threatening manner, and of the 23 incidents on Utah college campuses involving guns, seven involved loaded handguns while the rest involved BB guns or paint-ball guns. The other incidents involved weapons that ranged from butterfly knives to brass knuckles to nunchakus.

No incidents involved a legally concealed weapon.

Such data only reinforce why gun advocates have successfully defeated efforts to ban concealed weapons on campuses, said Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Self-Defense Instructor's Network.

"Concealed weapon carriers are not people to be afraid of," Aposhian said. "They are simply folks who are concerned with one thing and one thing only: lawful self-defense."

Yet University of Utah lobbyist Kim Wirthlin still worries about allowing weapons of any kind on campus.

"Even though those statistics don't indicate that concealed weapons are what's causing the problems, if you have weapons, you may have accidental discharges," she said.

Data gathered under the Clery Act shows the number of weapons incidents on campus, but does not spell out the types of weapons used. Individual campuses, though, were able to break down the incidents by weapon used and an analysis shows there were nine incidents involving students with guns from 2001 to 2005, though no one was harmed in any incident.

The only discharge of a weapon occurred in 2004 at Brigham Young University when two male students fired a BB gun. During the 2003-2004 academic year, two Westminster College students had guns illegally stored in their college-owned houses. One student voluntarily came forward and admitted to administrators he owned one of the weapons while the other was found during a search related to a separate investigation, spokeswoman Laura Murphy said.

Though nothing occurred in those instances, Wirthlin worries about the availability of firearms during "intense times" of students' lives.

When guns are present during tense, emotional times, "situations can escalate," Wirthlin said. "We worry about having that on campus."

Her reason for not having guns on campus is the same given by those who support allowing concealed weapons. Students and faculty members have the right to protect themselves during tense emotional times, argue Aposhian and Brent Tenney, president of Second Amendment Students at the U.

"Just because there are a few crimes doesn't mean there are no crimes," Tenney said. "It's not unreasonable for us to want to protect ourselves just in case."

The shooting spree at Virginia Tech is an example, he said, of an incident no one could have predicted.

Wirthlin, though, sees the statistics as pointing to a strong infrastructure on campus to keep students safe and hopes campus security systems will help prevent such shootings.

"We want to provide police resources and help students get help whenever they need it," she said.

However, she recognizes that gun advocates are also working toward making campuses safer by protecting themselves with concealed weapons.

Tenney carries a weapon not only to keep himself safe on campus, but because he doesn't spend his entire day on campus. Instead, he commutes on TRAX and spends time in downtown Salt Lake City.

"I travel through some dangerous parts of town," he said. "If I can't carry on campus, I won't have my gun all day long."

He emphasizes that statistics such as those from the Clery Act show concealed weapons permit holders are law-abiding.

"Concealed weapons holders are far more law-abiding than the average citizen," he said. "We rarely, if ever, cause problems."


* SHEENA MCFARLAND can be contacted at or 801-257-8619.

Concealed weapons at colleges

* The debate over guns on public university campuses in Utah erupted after lawmakers in 2004 passed a law allowing concealed-weapons permit holders to take their guns on campuses and into other previously gun-free areas.

* The University of Utah sued to prevent the law's implementation and eventually lost in the Utah Supreme Court in 2006.

* The U. of U. also filed a lawsuit in federal court, but agreed to withdraw it after the 2007 Legislature passed a bill that allows concealed weapons on campus but lets dorm residents choose roommates who do not hold concealed weapons permits.