Reading, Writing and Reloading | News | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Reading, Writing and Reloading 

Handgun ownership in schools is the Utah way. So why don’t you want one?

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I sought long and hard for a reason. Eventually, I found a handful. That is, during my five-plus years attending the University of Utah did I ever have reason to pull a handgun'excuse me, “concealed weapon”'from my parka’s inside pocket?

nn

Well, there was the moment when I felt like popping my English professor one. He had this annoying habit of musing ad nauseum about the “hidden worlds” of literary figures without saying anything substantive. I also recall when, right in the middle of lunch with a sexy brunette from my stadium-size biology class, I watched in horror as her boyfriend sat down to join us. Let me tell you, nothing makes you want to reach for your Glock or Sig Sauer quite like the attitude of some smart guy out to steal your gal.

nn

I’m exaggerating, of course. But the horror of this world, according to one famous French film, is that “everyone has their reasons.” Whether those reasons are good, bad or ugly doesn’t matter. That’s because all of us, some more than others, are led by our noses. So it is that random fantasies from my scholastic past about pulling a gun are reason enough for anyone else to pack heat on campus. Right?

nn

“You’re darned tootin’,” according to the collective wisdom of our state Legislature, which gifted us years ago with one of some of the most liberal'if that’s the right word'guns laws in the nation. Now, after the Utah Supreme Court ruled 4-1 this September that the University of Utah must abandon its 1977 ban on guns, state lawmakers stand ready to see handguns enter public school classrooms statewide as any teacher willing receive gun training as “special function officers.” Does the public want guns in the classroom? No. Do the majority of schoolteachers? No. Not even Brigham Young University, the educational flagship of the church the vast majority of Utah lawmakers claim allegiance to, will abide by firearms in the lecture hall or professors’ offices.

nn

Yet, steeped in the doctrine that all human hearts are potentially depraved and sold on the belief that the Second Amendment is somehow divinely inspired, our lawmakers will stop at nothing to ensure that handgun enthusiasts have the inalienable right to carry their guns anywhere they please.

nn

In this day and age, we can make mincemeat of the Sixth and Eighth Amendments pertaining to fair trials and prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich insisted recently that free speech should have an “on-off button.” Our own Sen. Orrin Hatch threatens perpetually to rewrite the First Amendment for idolatry of the U.S. flag. Meanwhile, the Second Amendment, we can rest assured, will never be spindled, chipped, dented or scratched'never mind so much as even slightly altered or changed. In fact, the Second Amendment might well be the one aspect of our Constitution we’re most eager about exporting. Past National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston bragged to the Oxford Union that he was safer stepping off a plane into Los Angeles than walking the streets of London, then charged the British with “cultural cowardice” for their restrictions on gun ownership. But America’s love affair with guns fits perfectly with one of our most enduring national characteristics, that of complete overkill in approaching problems. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 might have been prevented if our intelligence agencies had been more forthright about sharing information and taking al-Qaeda’s threats seriously following its attacks on U.S. interests abroad. Instead, we conclude that preventing terrorist attacks requires invading a foreign country and attempting to remake an entire region of the world.

nn

With some $20 million in its campaign war chest, it almost seems a minor miracle that the NRA hasn’t expanded “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” into the realm of grenade launchers, flame throwers, tanks, fighter jets or even nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

nn

Utah’s obsession with “the equalizer” is nothing if not amusing. In the past, we had gun-rights groups arguing that the state was obligated to provide them with special gun lockers outside of 2002 Winter Games venues, as well as court buildings. Imagine the lively exchange of fire after people emptied their gun lockers following a judge’s decision in a tenant-landlord dispute, not to mention a divorce hearing. Not even houses of worship are safe. Unless, that is, they place signs outside their doors asking that attendees leave their weaponry at home. There’s a special kind of gun nut who holds victims responsible for whatever crime befalls them. “If only every Amish in Pennsylvania carried a gun,” they say. “Those five girls would never have been shot to death.” What kind of handgun would Jesus pack?

nn

There’s nothing wrong, necessarily, about learning algebra from a teacher carrying a 9 mm. There’s nothing too distressing about sitting next to a fellow student in class who likes the feel of a Smith and Wesson tickling his ribs. But what if hidden handguns become the pulse of everyday life in Utah?

nn

“Who’s packing?” we ask. “Well, we don’t know, because those packing keep their weapons hidden.”

nn

“Well, then,” we think. “Maybe I should start packing, too. After all, what kind of fool am I to walk around without a gun if anyone else could have one as well?”

nn

We see this same cycle occurring even now on the world stage. The United States, Israel and France have nuclear weapons? Well, then, what’s so bad about Iran having nuclear weapons?

nn

As gun ownership mounts, so, too, does a sense of collective fear, the sense that anyone walking down the street represents a ravaging beast, the sense that everything, anywhere at any time, could change for any reason with the draw of a gun. Like it or not, here in Utah, that’s what we call a feeling of safety.

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