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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Coleman: Utah’s Gun Advocates

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council.

The following is the second of a three-part series highlighting the companies, advocates and legislators central to the Second Amendment dialogue in Utah. 

Though the Utah high school students who participated in the national walkout in memory of the Parkland, Florida victims can hardly be called advocates, these individuals represent a movement in the United States. Acting as the unpaid spokespersons for the gun lobbyists seeking tighter restrictions, these students marched by the thousands while holding signs fraught with misunderstandings.

While Utahans reflexively support the Republican platform, there are certainly advocates on either side of the issue. Unpaid demonstrators—such as the students from 30 schools along the Wasatch Front—represent a tiny sliver of the complex discussion occurring in the state. Meanwhile, those including Spencer Stokes, Arthur Thomm, Brian Judy, John Commerford, Jeff Bailey and Clark Aphosian constitute Utah’s thriving gun lobby.

Throughout the 17 minute demonstration last Wednesday, adolescents nationwide indicated that they absolutely support gun control measures—perhaps even more than remaining in class. Polarizing figures such as David Hogg, a survivor of last month’s shooting who has called the NRA and Republican lawmakers “child murderers” and accused the former of seeking to “kill more people,” led the recent charge to widely restrict gun ownership.

Oddly, after Hogg finished accusing Republican lawmakers of being “cowards,” degrading the Trump administration and spreading his hatred for NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, he tweeted:

“Can we please not debate this as Democrats and Republicans but discuss this as Americans? In the comments if you see someone you dissagree [sic] with do not attack each other talk to one another, this applies to me too. WE MUST WORK TOGETHER TO SAVE OUR FUTURE.”

There is ample reason to believe that many of Utah’s high school students who walked out were under similar pretenses, believing that a ban on long rifles—which account for less than three percent of all gun deaths—could be done as Americans rather than as the puppets of intelligent lobbyists.

As Ben Shapiro wrote about the walkout on the Daily Wire, “There’s always something troubling about school walkouts as a strategy for change. Our educational system is awful enough without students spending less time in class…[a]nd there’s something even more troubling about the eagerness of the Left to use children as its spokespeople, without any hint that the kids in question have studied the issues enough to actually attain any level of expertise.”

Several prominent figures in the Utah community represent the national effort to stifle Second Amendment rights, including advocates Spencer Stokes and Emily Walton of the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund. Representing four million members that include community members and gun owners alike, Everytown is the operation of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg—an individual who has repeatedly demonstrated his lack of understanding for the issue.

Operating in coordination with Mom’s Demand Action, Everytown celebrated when the Utah legislature could not pass HB 129 through the House. Describing the bill as “a dangerous Stand Your Ground bill being pushed by the gun lobby,” both organizations failed to mention that HB 129 was essentially a simple rewording of the state’s existing code. Nonetheless, the “victory” was talked up as a stand against the infamous National Rifle Association lobbyists.

There are several individuals in Utah who represent the NRA, including Arthur Thomm, Brian Judy and John Commerford. Each has certainly contributed to Utah’s gun discourse, providing information and reelection resources to members of the state’s delegation. Yet, as Vox noted late last year, “The NRA may exert a massive and real influence on Washington DC, but its campaign contributions can’t possibly be the corrupting agent singlehandedly thwarting meaningful action on gun control…” So what is the “secret” leverage that Thomm, Judy and Commerford use to gain access?

Simple: The way to rise in the Republican Party is to support gun rights, and thereby represent the vested interest of millions of voters.

Many believe that the NRA represents a massive donation force which allocates disproportionate amounts of funds to sway votes; indeed, the reason Bloomberg chose to found Everytown was to provide Republicans with funding from an anti-gun organization. Considering that few on the right have been swayed by the financial incentive, one must conclude that there are further considerations. Providing valuable information and the admiration of Utah voters is a central component of the NRA’s mission, and quite similar to Jeff Bailey’s of the National Association of Gun Rights.

Despite the multitude of gun advocates in Utah, Clark Aposhian serves as the “primary source” for the state’s legislature. As chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, Aposhian is able to indicate whether bills are worthy of praise or disdain for the individuals that decide how the industry is regulated in Utah. Teaching free concealed carry courses throughout the state and hosting Gun Radio Utah, Aposhian is the epitome of an active member of the community—one that is routinely asked to comment on stories during the legislative session.

“As [Aposhian is] talking, he flags down Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Lance Davenport and asks him for two minutes. He gets it — and much more. He met recently with Gov. Gary Herbert for 45 minutes,” noted an article by the Salt Lake Tribune. During the 2019 legislative session, one can expect to hear from Aposhian on the topic of gun control; hopefully, students will not be used as the foot soldiers to advance the cause. 

Visit this link to view the activity of lobbyists in Utah, and to browse their representation of each industry.

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    ColbyMar 20, 2018 at 11:10 am

    I think the only way to reasonably know if gun control would actually work is by looking at the places that implement it.
    Australia – Yes gun violence has gone down, but overall violent crimes/rape have gone up since the gun ban was implemented.
    Chicago – strict gun control exists, gun violence is incredibly high.
    St. Louis – strict gun control exists, gun violence is incredibly high.
    Utah – very little gun control, very little gun violence.

    Several police officers sat outside the Florida school for four minutes while a mad man killed defenseless students. The FBI and local Police in the recent Florida shooting had multiple opportunities to take preventative measures, but failed to act. Why would you surrender your right to defend yourself and rely on police officers that are likely to “sit outside for four minutes” while you are being attacked. The government fails far too often for me to be willing to surrender my rights to them.