Some guy is walking around campus with his gun hanging out. Nothing else seems amiss. Would you call the cops?
Nicholas Moyes, the president of the Utah Valley University College Republicans, carries a Sig Sauer P 226 9 mm on his hip, and he doesn't want to conceal it--at least not all the time. Many argue he's well within his rights outlined in state law and the 2nd Amendment, but when he made that argument to some Utah Valley University campus police (and secretly recorded it on his iPhone, see below), after a half-hour of debate, he hadn't gotten very far.
Risking a citation for disorderly conduct, Moyes eventually complied with the officer and concealed the weapon. "That's just not me," he says, regarding getting arrested. He says he open-carries on campus all the time and this was the only time he'd been confronted by campus security. "I was ready with my responses to the police officers, but I wasn't trying to cause an uproar," he told me. He said he recorded the encounter not to "ambush" the police, but as evidence for his case, in the event that he was charged. "I just knew it was going to be my word against two cops." He put it on the Internet, he said, to raise awareness that open-carrying a weapon is--restrictions notwithstanding--legal.
Moyes makes a lot of legal arguments on the video, none of which I can independently verify. But, I called Centerville 2nd Amendment attorney Mitch Vilos for some clarity. He's doing some checking on whether any federal regulations may complicate the picture (open carry law in Utah is pretty simple, but the campus setting complicates things), but his first instinct is to say state law absolutely authorizes Moyes, and any other concealed-carry permit holder, to open-carry on a public Utah university campus. He said that if any federal regulation could be applied to the situation, it ought to be ruled unconstitutional for being so vague that someone like Moyes--a reasonable person who seems to have done a bang-up job of trying to understand the law--can't tell whether he's breaking the law, or not.
I also called Utah Valley University Police this morning. I was allowed to leave a voice mail for a sergeant who has not called me back yet. When he does, I'll update this post. (They called back - update below the video!)
update 4:10 p.m. 4/9/10 - UVU spokesman Chris Taylor called me back. The university's position is that the officer was correct to demand that Moyes conceal his weapon. Citing Utah Code 76-10-505.5, Taylor reminds that guns are generally prohibited from schools in Utah, unless you have a concealed-carry firearm permit. According to the legal opinion received from the Utah Attorney General's office, Taylor says that means permit holders may conceal-carry on campus, but not open carry.
update 5:12 p.m 4/9/10 - Vilos says the university's argument is a red herring. "They're grasping at straws," he says. Vilos doesn't agree that just because the conceal-carry permit law exclusively authorizes guns on campus that the permittees must thus conceal their weapons while on campus. "All that does is give you the right to conceal," but not the requirement to do so, Vilos says.