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OREM -- A man who frightened shoppers at the University Mall in Orem by carrying guns in the open may be charged, though police say he did not break the law in how he carried the weapons.
The man caused a lot of concern among people who saw him armed Saturday in a busy area of the city.
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Police received several 911 calls that morning about a man armed with a rifle and a handgun walking down the street in front of the mall at the intersection of University Parkway and State Street in Orem. Calls first started coming in as the man passed through the neighborhood around 1600 South and 800 East.
The man was wearing an unloaded assault rifle and had a handgun holstered. Officers also discovered a large knife. A witness told KSL the man was wearing a leather jacket and beret.
When officers found the man, they say he wasn't pointing the guns at anyone, he was just carrying them. Since the guns were unloaded and he was not threatening anyone, officers determined he was not breaking the law.
The police report obtained by KSL showed the man told officers he was "within his rights due to Utah being a open carry state."
"When you find out [the guns are] unloaded and he's just carrying them out in the open and they're not concealed, there's not much we can do," said Sgt. Craig Martinez, Orem Police Department.
Still, mall management was upset with the man and asked police to remove him from mall property. According to the police report, the man was told by officers his actions were alarming to the public and if he returned to mall property he would be arrested for trespassing.
Gunman familiar with gun laws
Police say the man was well versed in Utah's gun laws, but they are not sure if his intention was to test the law.
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"Common sense would state you don't walk down the street with a rifle, but Utah State Law says you can, so it's very debatable on what's common sense or not," Martinez said.
"I wouldn't walk down the street with a rifle, but that's me," Martinez added. "It doesn't mean you can't, because right now, this guy wasn't violating any law when it comes to the guns."
Orem police have turned the case over to the city prosecutor for a possible charge of disorderly conduct. Officers say that's because the man's actions caused a disturbance to many people, especially because it happened just one week after the tragic shooting in Tucson.
Gun owners must act with decorum, advocate says
Meanwhile, gun rights advocate Clark Aphosian of the Utah Shooting Sports Council says just because you can, it doesn't always mean you should carry openly.
Aphosian said property owners have every right to ask someone to leave, especially if that property is a business.
"In these heady days of terrorism and multiple-victim shootings and public shootings, it is going to cause people to take a second or third look," Aphosian said. "I think people that are carrying the firearms probably, truth be told, expect to be stopped or questioned."
Gun owners need to act with decorum, as do citizens and property owners, Aphosian said.
"Both need to be exercise with appropriate decorum," he said. "I think both can coexist at the same time."
Aphosian said people doing something just because they can should also expect to be questioned. And if they violate some law in the process, they also should also expect to face possible penalties. At the same time, he said, gun ownership rights should be respected.