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Tale told about Utah's gun-toting legislators, but it's not true

SALT LAKE CITY ­— Verdell Jackson, a Montana state senator, can't forget the story he heard a decade or so ago about Utah lawmakers.

According to the story, legislators drew concealed weapons in order to stop a man who pushed past security to burst into their chambers while the Legislature was in session.

"When he looked up, there were six guns pointing at him," Jackson recalled being told by a Utah lawmaker whose name he doesn't remember at an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting in Washington.

The pair had struck up a conversation after Jackson noticed the Utah lawmaker had a gun under his jacket and a lapel pin depicting an official with a concealed weapon.

Jackson said the story stuck with him because he has feared for his own safety in the Helena Capitol, where only the governor's security detail is allowed to carry guns. He even retold the tale recently to a reporter for a Montana newspaper.

Trouble is, it's not true.

Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, has served in the Utah Legislature since 1996 and doesn't remember it. Nor does the head of Capitol security, although several years ago the Jazz Bear did reportedly startle one armed lawmaker when he rushed into the House chamber firing a confetti gun.

Jackson said he couldn't believe the story from the Utah lawmaker wasn't true. "I can't think of any reason he would be pulling my leg," the 69-year-old retired educator said.

He said he probably won't bring up the story again even though he is sponsoring legislation that would allow Montana lawmakers the same ability to carry concealed weapons as their Utah counterparts.

What he will talk about are the threats he's received during his 13 years in the Montana Legislature, including from supporters of gay rights and opponents of drug testing impaired drivers.

"I felt my life was in danger," Jackson said of the calls and letters he received after he testified against teaching children about same-sex marriage through books about gay parents.

Then there were the marijuana advocates he said were upset with his efforts last legislative session to require drivers stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence to be tested for drugs, too.

"There were a lot of scruffy people," Jackson said. "It was another situation where you have a special interest group that may have some wackos in it."

He said he believes the recent shootings in Tucson that left six dead and 14 injured, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., are focusing more attention on his bill, which he started drafting weeks ago.

"If it hadn't have been for the Arizona incident, the media wouldn't have been that interested in it," Jackson said. "That I had received threats and things like that never made the newspapers."