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No weapons resolution? Too bad

Once again, the Utah Legislature has dropped the bill and the ball related to carrying concealed weapons.

After two years of talk about banning guns in schools, churches, state offices and elsewhere where handguns are inappropriate, this looked to be the year of resolution. But no such luck.Senate President Lane Beattie had sponsored a measure that would have allowed churches, owners of private property and schools to ban legally permitted concealed weapons. But he was persuaded by legislative leadership, which was pressured by guns-rights advocates not to act. He said there are too many legal question and too much misunderstanding for him to proceed this session, and he pledged to study the matter further.

Opponents of the bill claim guns already can be kept from private residences and churches using current trespass laws, and their primary heartburn is with bans from schools.

That sentiment runs contrary to the feelings of nearly 90 percent of Utahns, who want legally permitted weapons kept from schools and places of worship. The University of Utah has drafted a no-guns policy that remains in question due to this unresolved issue. It reflects sound thinking that should filter statewide throughout all higher- and public-education institutions.

It also leaves in limbo Gov. Mike Leavitt's personnel decision that prohibits state employees, save those in law enforcement or security positions, from carrying any kind of weapon in any state building or vehicle, regardless of permits. That order ruffled some feathers and led to the threat of lawsuits, but none has materialized.

Concealed weapons advocates argue that people in a given location are at risk when criminals know law-abiding citizens are unarmed. The threat of encountering armed resistance acts as a deterrent. That argument has some merit.

But the counter-argument, even more persuasive, is that the presence of guns leads to accidental shootings, suicides and homicides that would not have occurred had a handgun not been within easy reach.

A legally permitted teacher, for example, would not wear his or her handgun during class but would store it - most likely in a secured place. But what of the times, bound to happen, when weapons are inadvertently left within reach or when mischievous youths find a way to get their hands on it?

That scenario, as unlikely as it is, is more likely than a crazed madman storming a school and taking hostages, as awful as those rare occurrances are. There are moments when people might wish to have a concealed weapon to be given more of a fighting chance. But they are far outweighed by the risks of mishaps and misfires in places where firearms have no business being found.