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Thread: in the Standard-Examiner (Utah)

  1. #1
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    Gun talk in the openMonday, December 17, 2007

    By Jesse Fruhwirth
    Standard-Examiner Davis Bureau

    Advocates want weapons in plain sight

    LAYTON -- When Brian Nelson first got his permit to carry a concealed weapon about seven years ago, he worried about whether his gun was concealed enough.

    "When I first got my permit, I was hesitant to carry it, thinking, 'Is it showing?' " he said.

    That didn't last long, and now the Layton salesman usually makes no effort at all to conceal it.

    The gun sits at the ready on his hip, the black holster standing out in contrast to putty-colored slacks. It's always loaded. A reinforced metal snap keeps the gun in its holster as he shops, works or meets his wife for dates.

    Nelson and several other Utah residents who met on the message boards of have started organizing public events. They have had two meetings, the last being held in November in Layton.

    About 40 people showed up -- an increase from the eight or nine at the October meeting. Some carried their weapons openly for the first time.

    Carrying a weapon openly has fewer regulations than carrying it concealed. An adult over the age of 21 can carry a gun without concealment without a permit, but must have a permit to hide it under a jacket.

    Many gun owners don't know that, Nelson said.

    "I think the reason a lot of (permitted) people don't carry is they're worried they're not covering it up as well as they should," he said.

    "The biggest thing that comes up (in class) when we get into the open-carry portion is, people just don't know."

    Nelson sees many values in open carry.

    He thinks individual criminals might think twice about committing crimes around someone they can see is carrying a gun.

    On a hot day, a concealed-weapon carrier has to choose between wearing extra clothing to conceal the gun or not carrying a weapon at all. Finally, he said, carrying a gun visibly helps preserve gun rights by raising awareness and starting conversations.

    Nelson meets every Thursday at Impact Guns' shooting range in Ogden with a group of men he has been shooting with for years.

    None within his circle of gun enthusiasts is overly critical of Nelson's open-carry ways. However, most choose to conceal for a variety of reasons, which Nelson respects.

    Mark Arrington, a cop-turned-defense attorney who also teaches weapons classes, doesn't know Nelson, but echoes the sentiments of many of Nelson's friends who are skeptical of open carry.

    "The disadvantage of open carry is if you have somebody who is irrational, like in the Trolley Square matter. They're going to focus on that person (open carrying) first. It may be them who is concealed, and they're going to surprise you," he said.

    "(Concealing a weapon) allows the citizen to make a rational decision on whether to expose himself and get involved, or let it go and just be a good witness. ...

    "That's the way I look at it, not only from the perspective of a firearms instructor, but also as an attorney."

    Open carriers have heard this "element of surprise" argument before, and Nelson doesn't deny that open carry has its disadvantages. But what Nelson loses in surprise, he thinks he gains in deterrence.

    "(Criminals) are looking for easy targets," he said.

    According to, 22 states clearly allow open carry. Another 18 states allow it in some form, but may ban weapons in vehicles or allow local municipalities to ban them.

    Several places in Utah require open carriers to either conceal their weapons or avoid carrying weapons entirely. No weapons are allowed at courthouses and post offices, for example.

    Then there are gray areas, such as at the University of Utah, where students might face sanctions for open carry, even if the practice is legal.

    It's issues like those -- anda worry that some law-enforcement agencies in Utah might not know that open carry is legal -- that inspired gun-rights groups this year to urge the attorney general to issue a legal opinion on the matter.

    Private-property owners also may forbid weapons on their premises.

    A representative of Newgate Mall said policy states an open carrier may be referred to local police if other customers complain.

    A representative of Zions Bank said there is no policy against openly carrying a weapon on the premises, but added that it's not advisable.

    "There's certainly the potential for a misunder-standing. ... If employees see a weapon, there is certainly the potential that their reaction -- and perhaps rightfully so --would be to contact police," said Rob Brough, Zions Bank executive vice president. "(But) as long as our employees weren't feeling threatened, there shouldn't be an issue."

    Nelson said he's been asked to leave his weapon at home by only two businesses over the years. While he's an outspoken gun-rights advocate, he always complies.

    "I've been (open carrying) for so long and had so little negative response from people, I don't think about it," he said.

    Most people don't hassle him because they don't even notice his gun, Nelson said. He admits, though, that stereotypes may be a large reason why he isn't confronted.

    While shopping at a Layton grocery store recently, Nelson openly carried his weapon. Josh Curtis, of Layton, said he assumed Nelson was an off-duty police officer and so the gun was not worrisome to him. But when told Nelson is not a cop, Curtis' demeanor changed.

    "That's a little different. That makes me a little concerned."

    Nelson dresses professionally and has close-cut hair and a clean-shaven face. He's also white, as were most or all of the 40 people who attended the lunch, Nelson said.

    Fair or not, he agreed he might be hassled a lot more while open carrying if he fit another stereotype -- for example, if he were a racial minority with a gun holstered to low-slung, baggy jeans.

    Ogden Police Chief Jon Greiner said his force allows open carry, but said the practice is still very rare. The public seems to have less tolerance of visible weapons than law enforcement does, he said.

    Nelson hopes that the group's meetings continue to gain attention and build attendance. Another meeting is planned for late this month.

    He said those with a permit to carry a concealed weapon may be hesitant to carry at all unless they know concealment isn't required.

    "I still conceal a lot, but when you go to a restaurant and sit down for dinner with your wife, you don't want to wear your coat through the whole meal."

  2. #2
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    Great work!

    I just saw this, sounds like the press is starting to get it.

    I hope more open carriers in other states start to cultivate relationships with the press.

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