Guns are in the news a lot these days, and with good reason. But in Utah, there are few voices arguing for a balanced approach to gun legislation. In fact, there is no specific organization focused on tighter gun regulation in Utah–even though many people are upset with concealed carry on our college campuses, the lifting of the 1000-foot ban on guns near elementary schools, and the ease at which Utah passes out concealed carry permits to people throughout the country. This isn’t our first foray into gun legislation, but it is one of the first times we’ve been relied on with such frequency to provide a moderate, progressive voice in the debate.
Ben Winslow at FOX13 reported on a Utah company whose sales of kevlar vests and backpacks have gone through the roof in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school. In that news story, Maryann Martindale, executive director of Better UTAH commented:
“I think when these things happen we have the chance to ask ourselves tough questions,” she said. “One of those is what kind of a society do we want to live in? Do we want to live in a society where we send our kids to school in Kevlar backpacks and arm our teachers? I think we create more chaos by responding that way.”
Winslow’s story went viral, being picked up by radio stations and online forums across the country, even reaching news outlets as far away as Australia.
Late last week the National Rifle Association held a press conference calling for a robust training program, created by the NRA, to put armed officers at every school in America. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, managed to place blame for the Sandy Hook shooting everywhere except for where it belonged: unbridled gun access in the United States. In response, Better UTAH issued the following statement.
Keep the NRA out of our schools. Qualified professionals in public safety are better equipped to make plans to protect our children, not the gun-selling, gun-toting National Rifle Association that is more interested in making sure its clients maintain good market share than whether or not our children are safe and protected. The NRA not only has a hold on our national leaders, but has strangled progress in our own state legislature.
The Salt Lake Tribune singled out state representative Curt Oda in their masthead editorial today as harboring a particularly ludicrous approach to reducing gun violence, but Oda’s ideas are widespread in the state legislature. Many of our state legislators are more loyal to their guns and the NRA than their own constituents, preventing them from dispassionately approaching the problem of gun violence. Whatever steps we take over the next couple of weeks, this much should remain true: Keep the NRA out of our schools.
The statement contributed to a dialogue that occurred in many of Utah’s media outlets, including stories at FOX13, KSL, the Deseret News, and the Salt Lake Tribune.