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9. Stats: Guns on Utah college campuses not a problem

Stats show few guns found on Utah college campuses
By Sheena McFarland
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated:08/27/2007 06:32:21 AM MDT

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

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'

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 [email protected] 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.
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