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Lawmaker wants Oly gun lockers

SHARE Lawmaker wants Oly gun lockers

Weapons storage lockers at Olympic venues are still a possibility under a bill before the Utah Legislature.

Rep. John Swallow, R?Sandy, is running legislation that would require facilities that currently ban guns to provide firearms storage for concealed weapons permit holders. Airports, courthouses and Olympic venues are on the list.

Weapons were outlawed at the 10 competition sites, the area of downtown Salt Lake City called Olympic Square and other Olympic sites as part of a 1999 deal between legislators and gun-rights advocates.

Lawmakers, who convene in committee hearings next Tuesday, would have to act fast for the law to go into effect prior to the Feb. 8 start of the 2002 Winter Games. The bill's language provides for that. But Swallow said that is not his intent and the timing is coincidental.

"It's not an Olympics bill," he said.

Still, Swallow conceded there is no guarantee legislators won't find it in the state's best interest to act before the Games.

The measure would need a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate and the governor's signature to take effect immediately.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Leavitt said Friday Leavitt has no comment on the bill "until it's relevant to weigh in."

W. Clark Aposhian, head of the Utah Self Defense Instructors Network, said he intends to meet with legislative leaders next week. Swallow's HB82 will be on the agenda.

"We are going to make a push for that one," he said. "We think it's a good idea. We think it's needed."

Aposhian said he plans to take his own firearms lock boxes to Rice-Eccles Stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies, provided he is allowed to set them near the entrance.

"I'm not going to put them out on State Street," he said.

Gun-rights groups grudgingly agreed to a ban on guns at Olympic venues and were angered to learn the Salt Lake Organizing Committee has no plans for storage lockers.

Olympic organizers are advising spectators, volunteers and participants to leave their guns behind.

Ticket holders will find weapons on a list of prohibited items in the spectator guide, which notes the ban also includes "one licensed to carry a concealed firearm." Volunteers have been informed of the no-guns policy through their SLOC handbooks.

SLOC did not return telephone calls Friday for comment on Swallow's bill.

Swallow, who has already announced that he's seeking the Republican nomination in the 2nd Congressional District this year, said the bill solves a problem the state has had for several years.

Legally permitted concealed weapons carriers holders leave their guns in vehicles when visiting secure facilities like airports or courthouses. "It's easy to break a window or get into the trunk of a car," he said.

Gun-rights advocates are an active, if smallish, bloc in the GOP state delegate pool. Last summer they threatened demonstrations in front of state Republican Convention keynote speaker Vice President Dick Cheney after the Secret Service announced that no one carrying a weapon would be allowed in while Cheney spoke.

In the end, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff arranged for weapons lockers to be placed outside the Sandy convention center. About a dozen delegates and guests with legally permitted concealed weapons permits deposited their weapons there until after Cheney left and the convention was opened up to gun carriers.

Contributing: Bob Bernick Jr.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com