Pearson: Help fight open gun carry at the U

By By Spencer Pearson and By Spencer Pearson

By Spencer Pearson

University of Utah students,

I am writing this column to request your assistance on a very important issue to the U and to the state. As many of you know, over the past several years, the U has been involved in disputes with the state as to whether or not to allow guns on campus. In 2006, this dispute was settled and the U lifted its longstanding ban on guns.

Currently the law holds that concealed weapon permit holders are allowed to carry a weapon on campus as long as the weapon is concealed. Students living in the Residence Halls are also allowed to request a roommate who does not carry a weapon.

Recently at the State Legislature, there has been a bill introduced that would change this dynamic significantly. As the bill states, not only will it be legal to carry a concealed weapon on campus, but it will also be legal to open-carry a firearm. This bill, HB 473, sponsored by Curtis Oda, will be very damaging for our institution and for institutions across the state. If passed, this could significantly impact the peace of mind of students and faculty. Already I have been approached by students and faculty who have expressed a great deal of concern on how this legislation would affect them and our classrooms.

Currently, few, if any, other public institutions across the country allow concealed permit holders to carry on campus. If passed, we would be the only state that allows people to openly carry a firearm.

There are several negative impacts from such a policy. One is that it sacrifices the comfort and peace of mind of students and faculty within our classrooms, both of which are vital to the educational process at a university. Secondly, this policy would severely damage our ability to recruit high-quality faculty and students. At the U, we benefit from an excellent teaching faculty, as evidenced by the recent Nobel Prize-winner Mario Capecchi. Since many students and faculty are discomforted by such a policy, and since we would be the only state in the country with such a policy, many quality students and professors will simply choose another institution over our own. Therefore, we would not be able to attract the best available resources for our state.

This bill is picking up national attention. Last Thursday, CNN wrote an article you can find online. This publicity is further evidence that the policies the state chooses to enact on its institutions are, in fact, recognized throughout the state and throughout academia. We certainly want to respect the rights of gun owners, but we feel that this legislation goes too far. Not only does it impose upon the peace of mind of students who do not wish to see firearms in their classrooms and on campus, it will restrict our ability to continue the tradition of excellence that we have enjoyed.

I am asking you to assist me in lobbying the Legislature to let them know that this is a policy that you do not wish to see passed in our state. Attached below is the contact information for the Senate and the House of Representatives. Please take the time to call or e-mail your respective legislator asking them not to pass this legislation.

Currently, this legislation is set to hit the Rules Committee this week. Please try to specifically target your e-mails to the Rules Committee as this is where the legislation will appear next. Membership for the committee can be found on the website listed below.

This is not a battle that we will be going alone. On Wednesday, I had a meeting with the other student body presidents in the state and we voted to officially oppose this legislation as a collective student body for the state. I bring this up so that you know that there will be other students supporting us in this important issue. I don’t, however, want students to get the mentality that their voice will be lost among other students who will be speaking out against this issue. We really do need the support of everybody. All it takes for a policy like this to pass is for the general population to be idle and watch the events unfold.

If you need help identifying who your legislator is, please stop by the ASUU office, room 234 of the Union Building, and we will be happy to assist you. Phone calls and e-mails are most effective, but if you have a letter you would like delivered to your legislator, feel free to drop that by our office and we would be happy to deliver it for you.

Please take time to stand up against an issue that could impact the quality of this university and other institutions throughout the state for years to come.

Thanks so much for your support.

Spencer Pearson is the president of the Associated Students of the University of Utah.