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Gun Control Advocate Assaults Gun Rights Advocate

by Sarah Thompson, M.D.
Director, Utah Gun Owners Alliance (UTGOA)

January 15, 2002

At the Administrative Rules committee this morning, Utah attorney Pat Shea demonstrated for the committee and other attendees why those who oppose gun rights are more of a threat to public safety than are peaceful gun owners who only want to be able to defend themselves against violent criminals.

Shea, for those of you not familiar with him, was the Democratic candidate who challenged Sen. Orrin Hatch in 1994. He was also appointed Director of the Bureau of Land Management and later deputy secretary of the Interior by former President Clinton. (This may explain why the BLM is so hostile to gun owners!)

The morning hearing, as you may remember, was called to discuss whether the Administrative Rules Committee had oversight of illegal policies that are actually rules.  (Technically, rules are subject to legislative oversight, while internal policies are not. But many executive agencies are calling their rules policies as a way to get around Utah law.)

Despite requests from committee members that speakers stick to the above issue, and not discuss whether banning guns is a good or a bad policy, Mr. Shea became quite overwrought at the idea that responsible, adult students, faculty and employees might be able to carry firearms for their own safety.

He insisted that the legislature had no oversight over what executive agencies do, and that the legislature's sole recourse was to ask the Governor and the executive agency in question to change its policies.  He said that only the courts may legally review an executive policy and that the legislature has no authority to do so. And he insisted that even visitors to the campus must be legally disarmed because they are "guests" of the university and must obey the university's wishes.  Not even University of Utah President Bernie Machen went that far. (For the record, visitors may carry concealed.)

As Shea was speaking, he became visibly more upset and emotional. "You wouldn't want a concealed weapon in a mental institution! You wouldn't want a concealed weapon in a prison!  So why would we want guns at a University?!" he cried.

To his credit, Sen. Mike Waddoups, sponsor of the 1995 concealed carry bill, responded, "Because they're not mentally ill and they're not criminals".

The committee, understandably, seemed less than impressed with Mr. Shea's reasoning, which only agitated him further.  His parting words to the committee as he left the testimony table were "You'll lose in court!  I'll make sure of it!", and then under his breath, "Idiots!"

Gun collector and gun rights advocate John Spangler, who was at the meeting to represent the Utah Shooting Sports Council, says he turned around and silently mouthed the word "A**hole" at Mr. Shea. Shea, in Spangler's words, "Jumped up, proceeded forward three rows, shoved me, grabbed the seat I was sitting in, and dumped me on the floor.  During the attack he stated 'Did you call me an a**hole? Let's go outside and settle this!  Come on, let's go!  Don't you have your concealed weapon? Let's go outside.'"

Spangler showed the admirable restraint typical of most gun owners and did not respond either physically or verbally.

Sadly, not a single person from the media was in attendance.

Security was called, but Shea was not evicted from the meeting - although gun rights advocates have been tossed out of meetings for such "violent" offenses as holding signs.  We suspect that had a gun owner behaved in such a disgraceful manner, he'd have been escorted out of the building in handcuffs.

Spangler filed a complaint with law enforcement and says he intends to press charges.

We at UTGOA certainly don't condone offensive language, and we would strongly advise against name calling in or out of committee hearings. But most people learn as children that name-calling is part of life, and that violence is not an acceptable response. 

This is a classic example of how anti-gun folks use the psychological defense mechanism of "projection", in which they attribute their own thoughts and feelings to other people. Shea, who obviously has problems controlling his own violent impulses, seems to project his own feelings onto gun owners and to assume that they will behave as he does, and are thus a threat. For more on this concept, see http://www.utgoa.org/articles/RagingAgainstSelfDefense.html or http://www.jpfo.org/ragingagainstselfdefense.htm

The morning hearing itself went well.  The committee voted unanimously to include policies that conform to the definition of rules to the Omnibus Rules sunset legislation.  In other words, if it looks like a rule, and acts like a rule, the Administrative Rules Committee will treat it like a rule, no matter what the executive agencies call it.

The afternoon session was devoted to a review of state executive agency gun policies, especially those at our colleges and universities.

UDOT announced that it was rescinding all of its rules prohibiting CCW in UDOT facilities.

University of Utah President Bernie Machen then offered his remarks. Despite a request from Speaker Stephens that comments be limited to whether the gun bans were legal, Machen insisted on reading his prepared statement.

"It is understood by most Utahns and, indeed, most Americans that guns are unacceptable in schools except for law enforcement officers and specifically authorized persons."

In other words, if I say it's unacceptable, it's unacceptable, and anyone who disagrees with me is some sort of lunatic extremist. This man runs Utah's flagship university, supposedly a place of higher learning and scholarship. But apparently he sees no reason to base his opinions on facts or data when emotions and polls will do.

The facts are clear - permitting concealed carry on campus would statistically decrease crime and help keep students, faculty and employees safer.

We wonder if Machen remembers that Ted Bundy once stalked his peaceful haven from reality, and murdered U of U students.

"Most of all, however, we want to do the right thing for the safety and well-being of those who attend classes, conduct research, and work at the University of Utah. We also want to ensure that our campus continues to be a place where vigorous and open debate can occur without fear or intimidation."

Is this the vigorous and open debate between a rapist and a young woman? Or the fear and intimidation involved when the U. threatens a senior medical student with loss of his degree and his career if he carries a firearm when coming to work at 3 AM? The "right thing" is to allow people to be responsible for their own safety.

If Machen is serious about ensuring vigorous and open debate without fear or intimidation, perhaps he should consider banning Pat Shea from campus, where he spoke as recently as last week.

"Academic freedom is short-circuited and education is stifled if students and faculty feel threatened by the presence of a weapon in the classroom. We believe this provides the legal basis for an exception to the current law for college campuses."

Perhaps President Machen needs to look up the word "concealed". A concealed weapon is by definition not visible and no one knows that it's there. And since when is "feeling threatened" a legal basis for enacting policies - especially policies that violate laws?

"Several polls taken in 1999 and again last week show that a clear majority of Utah citizens oppose guns in school. ...the only people calling for them (guns) are gun advocates who want to impose their will on Utah's college campuses."

The polls he mentions are highly suspect. And polls are no basis for making laws anyway.  We're fairly certain that 150 years ago a majority of people would have opposed allowing black women to attend universities. That is why we have a constitution that guarantees rights, rather than government by opinion polls. It's not gun advocates imposing their will on the university; it's the US Constitution, the Utah Constitution and Utah statute as enacted by the legislature.

"That would, I fear, only reinforce negative stereotypical images of Utah..."

Yup. Can't have those knuckle-dragging, red-neck, Neanderthals embarrassing the anti-gun internationalists running the Olympics. We should probably check and see if this particular statement complies with the University's "diversity" protocols. Maybe President Machen would benefit from the mandatory multiculturalism course he forces on all the students.

Machen also insisted that because the U policy has been in effect for 20 years, there's no need to change it just because Utah law has changed. He stated that he is not willing to rescind the U's gun bans, and implied that he might continue them regardless of the actions of the legislature.

Most of the representatives of the other colleges and universities concurred with President Machen. However for those of you looking for a school that is more likely to respect your rights, the College of Eastern Utah has no firearms policy, Southern Utah University "probably" allows concealed carry, Salt Lake Community College permits concealed carry (and has had no problems), Utah State only prohibits firearms in campus housing, and Dixie State prohibits CCW without a permit, so carrying with a permit is probably fine.

There was also a great deal of argument to the effect that gun bans are protected by the First Amendment since the mere presence of concealed firearms chills free speech - and that the First Amendment trumps the Second.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff also participated in the hearing and clearly reaffirmed his opinion that the gun bans are illegal and that he does not accept the various arguments made by the universities.

After two hours of debate, the committee, on a motion made by Speaker Stephens, voted unanimously to add all of the anti-gun rules and policies to the list of rules to be sunsetted by the Omnibus Rules Reauthorization bill. They also plan to ask for a legal opinion from legislative counsel. 

This means the committee voted to recommend to the entire legislature that these gun bans be rescinded - which is a big step in the right direction, and good news for gun owners.

Special thanks to Rep. David Ure, Speaker Marty Stephens, Sen. Mike Waddoups, and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff for their defense of concealed carry. Thanks also to Matt Boyden, Mitch Vilos and Charles Hardy for their excellent pro-carry and anti-lawlessness testimony.

UTGOA will keep you posted on the status of the Rules Reauthorization bill.  If you contacted any of the members of the committee to ask them to support gun rights, PLEASE take a moment to thank them for their support. Rep. Buffmire was the sole dissenting voice, and even she was a good sport about it. We were disappointed to hear that Rep. John Swallow considered other business more important than participating in this critical hearing.

These events prove once again that citizens who are willing to take the time to become actively involved in our legislative process, to contact legislators, to serve as delegates, and to work to elect pro-gun candidates can be successful in promoting gun rights.

Thanks to YOU, the state employees gun ban, the UDOT gun ban, the bans on guns in wildlife preserves, mental health centers, and youth correctional facilities are all history or soon to be history, and it looks like the university gun bans will soon follow.

Keep up the good work. With your help, we can look forward to a VERY SUCCESSFUL legislative session.

Copyright 2001, Utah Gun Owners Alliance, Inc. and Sarah Thompson
PO Box 1185
Sandy, UT 84091
801-566-1625
http://www.utgoa.org
Director@utgoa.org

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