As state public safety commissioner, I supported, and still do, the rights of Utahns to carry a concealed firearm. The version I advocated, authored and helped pass the Legislature in 1985 differed in an important particular from the current version. The previous statute required a showing of need rather than the unrestricted right to pack a gun concealed from view.
The 1985 law was predicated on the notion that those who are in some justifiable fear of a criminal act being committed against them should, in turn, be given a means of self-protection. Individuals such as former law enforcement officers, those who had been threatened by physical harm or individuals who, because of the nature of their business, carried valuables or large amounts of cash could make the requisite showing of need.The proponents of unrestricted concealed weapons rights, a law I personally believe is bad public policy, now take issue with school officials and church leaders who disavow the need to allow gun-toting patrons or parishioners on the premises.
They add insult to these frivolous objections by suggesting that church members will now have to make a choice between obedience with church edict and self-protection.
Am I missing something? The last time I was in church, we discussed brotherly love, patience - and charity. There wasn't a single soul that I could see packing a weapon or threatening bodily harm to anyone. The fact is, I don't ever recall in my experience any situation when the need arose in church to call upon an armed citizen to save body or soul.
Why not leave our guns in the car or at home when we go into church? Shucks, Wyatt Earp made folks check their guns before they could come into town. The pastor, bishop or priest should at least have the same right as it applies to the sanctuary of the church.
The Legislature should act to allow schools, churches and perhaps owners of private property to restrict the presence of firearms. I would go a step further and urge a return to the more sensible approach of requiring a showing that there is an articulable need for the carrying of a concealed weapon by individuals other than law enforcement officers. The Second Amendment does not confer an absolute right that is not subject to reasonable regulation.
John T. Nielsen
Former state public safety commissioner, Salt Lake City