This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of a teacher at the University of Utah or Salt Lake Community College:
You are standing in front of a classroom as students - 25, 50 or 100, depending on the class - walk in and take their seats. As one student sits down, he takes a revolver from a holster and places it in his lap or on the desk, his hand near the trigger. Or he leaves it in a shoulder or belt holster, in plain sight and within easy reach.
What would you do?
That scenario is quite likely if House Bill 473 is passed by the Utah Legislature. Gun rights advocates say the bill does not change existing law, which they interpret as allowing concealed-carry permit holders to carry firearms in plain view. Attorney General Mark Shurtleff's opinion is that existing law could be interpreted to allow or prohibit permit holders to carry weapons openly.
HB473 would clarify that concealed-carry permits also give holders a right to openly carry loaded guns in public places, including public-school campuses, at colleges and universities, in sports stadiums. Yes, and in hospitals, public libraries and the unsecured areas of airports.
We wonder whether legislators who favor this bill have thought through the possible consequences of allowing, even encouraging, people to openly carry a loaded weapon into a classroom or a basketball game between rival schools, as this bill would do.
It would be impossible for a teacher or classmate to know the armed person's intent or his state of mind. In the heated atmosphere of a close game, even normally level-headed fans have been known to get violent. Add the sight of loaded guns to that mix, handy for quick response, even illegal use, and it's not hard to imagine the possible outcome.
Openly carrying a weapon is a blatant form of intimidation, whether or not the person carrying it intends to use it.
Gun-rights lobbyist Clark Aposhian poo-poos as worry-mongering the concern of officials at the U. over potential classroom disruptions. We disagree. Their worry is reasonable. Call it Common Sense 101.
If legislators doubt the implications of HB473, they should put themselves in the position of a teacher confronted by an armed student. Gun advocates might advise a concerned teacher to get a gun of her own. But is a classroom really the right place for a showdown?