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OUR VIEW: New open carry bill unnecessary

On February 29, 2012

A bill in the Utah Legislature raised a debate over whether firearms should be visible in public. The HB49 Substitute would prohibit local municipalities from enacting or enforcing ordinances against carrying firearms, visible or concealed, without permission from the state Legislature.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, is quoted in a story from the Jan. 30 issue of The Salt Lake Tribune defending HB49. Ray said the intent of the bill was to clarify which situations deserve disorderly conduct charges.

"Just because I'm carrying the gun, they can't give me a disorderly conduct (charge)," Ray said. "If I'm acting in a threatening way, they certainly can."

We disagree with this perception. If a person carrying a firearm acts in a threatening way, police are likely to shoot rather than arrest the carrier. In January, police shot and killed a 15-year-old student brandishing what they later learned was an air gun made to resemble a more lethal weapon.

Perhaps a law-abiding citizen is well within his or her rights to openly carry a firearm, but considering recent news events it would be unwise. Virginia Tech and Chardon High School, in Ohio, are the most recent of several campus shootings that have happened in the U.S. Campus communities are becoming more wary of campus shooting warning signs. A person carrying an easily visible firearm on campus could prompt action from not only police, but faculty, staff or students who resolved to take action at the first potential sign of danger.

The Second Amendment is a constitutional right, but rights should only be exercised with responsibility and the proper education. Anything with the potential to end lives, whether it be a vehicle, a drug or a firearm, should be treated with every possible precaution. If the sight of a firearm has the potential to cause panic, it's best to leave it out of sight.

Some argue open carry has a deterring effect on crime, and we admit the appeal of openly carrying a firearm makes more sense in a dark alley, but it seems to us a firearm would be less of a deterrent on a busy university campus already patrolled by police.

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