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News » Opinion

Peace on Earth

Utah's pro-gun lawmakers don't always love guns.


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Looking out a south-facing window of the Utah Capitol on a day when your view isn't obscured by a blanket of glop, if you're a state legislator, you smile at the world you created, sprawled out below you.

A veritable citizen army served by any number of private armories dwells out there in your domain. Uncounted thousands of guns ranging from small pistols to beefy combat-style assault rifles are available at dozens of gun stores and dealers that dot the Wasatch Front. Maybe millions of rounds of ammo are in stock.

Yes, if you are a state representative or senator, you nod in quiet satisfaction at what you have helped build: a place where any ill-meaning fool who thinks he/she can create terror, or otherwise do harm, will run into a phalanx of law-abiding armed citizens ready to repel them at the squeeze of a trigger.

Yet—something doesn't add up.

With all this gun-toting safety legally and lovingly enveloping the Legislature, why is the state spending $2.8 million tax dollars to fortify the exterior of the Utah Capitol by installing steel and concrete "bollards" to block vehicles from driving into the building? Why is the state spending another $600,000 on "interior security improvements" and an additional $300,000 to hire more security personnel to protect the home of the Legislature?

It makes no sense. In a state where lawmakers punished the University of Utah for trying to ban guns from campus, why would legislators who pass laws that make it illegal to stop people from carrying concealed and openly visible firearms want to wall themselves off from the essence of their own will?

The rest of us down the hill are wide open. While representatives are now going to be in a shielded cocoon, our schools, churches, restaurants, cafes, shopping malls, libraries, public meeting places, parks, hospitals and university campuses don't have "bollards" covering our backs and fronts.

All we have is the fervent hope that the firepower the Legislature mandates is in the right hands. When something goes wrong at a school, for example, we pray the teacher who yanks the old smoke wagon from her purse won't shoot herself in the leg first, especially when she's sitting in the loo.

So, why the siege mentality at the Legislature? The yahoo who drove the pickup truck onto the Capitol steps in 2013 did something that scared them. So said Capt. Jess Anderson of the Highway Patrol, the guy in charge of protecting our legislators. Oh, c'mon—that was two years ago, and the truck did less damage to the Capitol than Phil Lyman and friends did on their four-wheelers down in Recapture Canyon.

More recently, the guy with the legal last name of Crimefighter, who left a wrapped-up assault rifle in the Capitol rotunda in October, is also cited in this nearly $4 million bout of security worry. His was an anti-gun-violence protest that prompted the evacuation and lockdown of the entire Capitol campus because he was mourning the victims of the college shooting in Oregon and trying to make a point about all the assault rifles in circulation.

So, does this mean the Legislature is scared of being attacked by anti-gun fanatics? What would they do? Toilet paper the place? Just who, besides ISIS, does the Legislature think is out to get them? Illegal immigrants? Syrian refugees? Women? Minorities? Catholics? The LGBT community? Beer drinkers? People who can't get Medicaid? Owners of electric cars and solar panels? Any person who is not white, male and Mormon?

The rest of us are vulnerable to all those groups, too. Hell, with the exception of ISIS, many of us are those groups.

It's obvious to me that the bigger threat to most Utah legislators is posed by colleagues who keep their semi-auto pistols at their desks in chambers where they could accidentally discharge.

It's not possible they are afraid of armed people, is it? You don't go out of your way for years to antagonistically push guns into every aspect of Utah life, passing laws to punish people who try to keep them out of certain places, and then go hide in your bollard/moat of a capitol building, do you? Wouldn't that be cowardly and hypocritical when the rest of the state is completely unprotected? More broadly, should the rest of us be scared because we don't have bollards blocking our front doors?

Writer Anita Sarkeesian would not speak at Utah State University in 2014 because she had her life threatened. Campus officials told her they legally could not stop people with concealed-carry permits from coming armed to her speech. So, she skipped it. Should we all skip doing the things we need/love to do because we don't have additional "interior security measures" and personnel to guard us?

When I go out someplace, I prefer to leave my weapons at home. Fortunately for me, my favorite gun store is located right across from my favorite watering hole, the Beer Bar in downtown Salt Lake City. Maybe I need to get the gun shop to stay open later when I'm out. Either that, or I need to get the Beer Bar to install bollards.

It's prudent we all heed this security cue from the Legislature. Even with all the legally armed citizens around to theoretically protect us, you never know who might be out to get you—including the legally armed citizens.

Staff Box

With all the focus on terrorism these days, are you officially worried about your safety?

Nicole Enright: I often think about my safety while at a movie, concert, large public space, etc. But I haven't really thought about how I would protect myself. It's a scary place to be in.

Paula Saltas: I'm not going to worry about terrorist attacks because, if I do, they win. I am more likely to get killed in a car accident than by a terrorist. I'm more worried about police brutality than terrorists.

Jeff Chipian: I have guns. At first, they were to prepare myself for the zombie apocalypse. Now I don't look like such an idiot anymore.

Kylee Ehmann: Personally, I'm more afraid of random guys on Trax who can't comprehend the phrase "not interested" than I am about any terrorist threat.

Scott Renshaw: Far less than I think about terrorism, I think about the way other people appear to be thinking about terrorism. And that's way more terrifying, as far as I'm concerned.

Liz Suggs: While terrorism is nothing to joke about, I think it's silly how afraid we, as a country, get from time to time. There are problems that need to be fixed, but fearing them isn't going to help.

John Saltas: It's correct to feel fearful. It's incorrect to become fearful.

Jeremiah Smith: I mostly just avoid seeing or hearing anything that Donald Trump says. There is nothing that makes me feel more unsafe than that guy's mouth.

Mikey Saltas: I have had many a sleepless nights, covers drawn to my chin in utter terror, eyes glued to the door. One hand rests on a baseball bat under my bed, while the other is equipped to phone for help at a moments notice. So yes, you could say I'm petrified of those dark, dreadful, dreary door-to-door salesman who bombard my house incessantly and unwaveringly.



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