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SALT LAKE CITY — Advocates for keeping firearms out of college assemblies say there's something wrong with a system that bans people from bringing their own food or drinks into a university assembly, but not their guns.
"It's our concern as mothers that children are being prevented from being able to participate in assembles and events where they can have intellectual freedom," said Chelsi Archibald, with the group MomsRising.org.
On Friday, about a dozen members of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah, MomsRising.org, and the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus delivered a petition with 20,000 signatures to the Utah Gov. Gary Herbert's office. The petition calls for universities to be given the power to ban guns from school assemblies.
"That would be much better than it is now where anyone with a concealed carry (permit) can bring something in but they can't bring food in, they can't bring alcohol, but they can bring a gun," Archibald said.
The petition drive was sparked by a recently canceled speech at Utah State University. Anita Sarkeesian was scheduled to speak at the school about the troubling way women are portrayed in video games. The school then received an anonymous email threatening the "deadliest school shooting in American history" if administrators didn't cancel her appearance.
After Sarkeesian found out that the school could not legally prevent concealed weapons permit holders from entering the auditorium with their guns, she canceled her appearance.
Our Second Amendment rights do not trump our First Amendment rights for free speech.
–Chelsi Archibald, MomsRising.org
Archibald said students should not be deprived of learning because of the fear of being shot.
"Our Second Amendment rights do not trump our First Amendment rights for free speech," she said.
Of the states that allow guns to be carried on campus, Archibald said Utah is the only one that doesn't impose any restrictions for the sake of assemblies. She said the petition, which only asks for a ban on guns in assemblies and not a complete ban on college campuses, is a good start.
"I don't have an opinion on that issue altogether, with people being able to carry guns. I come from a gun-friendly family. My specific issue is with gatherings and assemblies and the ability to exchange intellectual ideas between students," she said. "When that is hampered, then we are on dangerous ground. Because then we are allowing people who are concealed carrying, which is completely their right, to infringe on people's free speech. That's a very dangerous place to be."
Joining Archibald on Friday to deliver the petition was Bishop Scott Hayashi of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah.
He believes that while the majority of concealed permit holders are well-intentioned and would not cause a problem during an assembly, if an incident were to arise, they would not be able to respond the same way a police officer or a person with military training would. They might be more reckless in using their firearm, he said.
Because of that, Bishop Hayashi believes the same people who believe they are giving others a sense of security by carrying a weapon are actually doing just the opposite.
"In the state of Utah, I believe that we have a strong desire for individual liberty, and we also have a strong desire for protection," he said. "And what I think has happened in the state of Utah is that we have gone so far, that instead of being free we feel less free.
"Instead of creating more freedom, it has actually gone the opposite way," he said.