Chronicle’s view: Remember U for research, not gun policy

By and

Our Legislature keeps reloading the clip. On Capitol Hill, carrying weapons at the U seems to come up with every new session.

This year, the concern is a matter of clarification. House Bill 473 would rewrite state firearm code so that concealed weapons permit holders would be allowed to visibly carry their firearms on public school campuses, in hospitals and even in Rice-Eccles Stadium during a heated rivalry game.

Those who oppose the bill worry it might cause unneeded fear in teachers and students. After recent school shootings, the sight of a gun — even a legally carried one — would cause greater stress for educators already stressed enough.

It’s true. A man or a woman walking down Presidents’ Circle scratching his or her temple with the barrel of a Browning 9 mm would create quite a stir. Yet, is that truly a worry?

Brent Tenney, the president of the Second Amendment Students of Utah, supports the bill, but has stated he personally would not openly carry.

“I’m not saying open carry is a great idea,” Clark Aposhian, a gun-rights lobbyist, said to The Salt Lake Tribune. “I’m just saying it’s not illegal.”

If the bill’s most avid supporters wouldn’t open carry, should we get caught up in the possibility of public displays of protection?

HB 473 wouldn’t change much. Those who choose to carry will most likely continue to keep their weapons concealed. If an actual confrontation develops, the last thing students with a permit want is for the attacker to perceive them as a first target.

What the debate about the bill does change, however, is the way the nation perceives the U. We should be known for Nobel Prize winner and resident professor Mario Capecchi. We should feel honored for our medical school, our groundbreaking research and our top gymnastics program.

Instead, students looking for a higher education will equate the U to the Wild, Wild West.

There is a human need to feel safe. Teenagers moving away from their parents and the comfort of home need that safe feeling. A campus continually in the news over gun rights creates only worry and fear.

Pass the bill or do not, but do so quickly.

Little will change, but the longer negative debate remains in the news, the less we are able to concentrate on our positive traits. Don’t allow the greatness of the U to get lost behind a smoking barrel.

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