University police officer, security guard on leave over gun memo
January 5th, 2011 @ 4:39pm
SALT LAKE CITY -- A University of Utah police officer and security guard are on paid administrative leave for allegedly revealing a memo meant specifically for University police on how to deal with those openly carrying firearms on campus.
Zachary Wellman has been a security officer at the U. for six and a half years. Wellman and a campus police officer were put on leave Dec. 30 after sharing internal protocols with state lawmakers and gun advocacy groups.
He said he leaked the memo months ago because he believes carrying a firearm is a right that should be protected.
"They're creating rules for their campus that go above and beyond what they should be doing," Wellman said. "I understand that people are uncomfortable with displayed firearms, and this isn't saying everyone should go out and openly carry a firearm, but it should be a right that is protected."
Documents from University of Utah President Michael Young and campus police officers, meant as internal guidelines, outlined a concern about weapons seen in plain sight and how University police should respond to such situations.
Campus guidelines allow campus officers to cite and arrest anyone who openly carries a firearm without a permit.
If the person has a permit, they must conceal the weapon or leave campus. If they refuse, they can be cited and arrested.
"The University is not anti-gun. That's somewhat of a misconception," said U. spokesman Remi Barron. "Our gun policy is posted online and it's available to anyone. What's not available to the public are internal protocols."
A university gun rights advocacy group called Students for Concealed Carry leaked the internal memo online. The group said the memo infringed on students' rights.
Crystal Perry is the campus director for Students for Concealed Carry. She was one of the first people to see the leaked policy. She said because the university can't ban guns outright, it will do what it can to limit them.
"I think it's very unfair to the students who are lawfully carrying there as a state law," Perry said.
She said the policy does more harm than good and the officers who leaked it should be praised.
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said he knew about the memo for some time. He said his gun advocacy group planned to take the issue up with the Legislature until the student group posted it online.
"They believe from their interpretation, although it differs from the 'if' the firearm is displayed, you are in violation of code," he said, "but we don't see it that way, nor does anyone else."
University officials said they would not discuss internal protocols.
Firearms policies at Utah's public colleges vary subtly from campus to campus. Weber State University in August adopted a policy identical to the U.'s, which says that the school enforces state law. Under state law, only someone with a concealed weapon permit can carry a gun on school premises.
Snow College has a similar policy that also bans guns in off-campus housing. Utah State University prohibits the "illegal or unauthorized possession or use" of guns and other weapons, while guns and ammunition can only be stored off-campus or in a campus police storage cabinet.
Utah Valley University students who wish to openly carry a gun need to request permission from the campus police chief. A UVU student last year was briefly detained by a campus officer for openly carrying a gun in the Sorensen Student Center.
Westminster College and BYU, both private schools, ban guns on campus.