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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Senate-approved bill that would let people licensed to carry concealed weapons bring their guns inside public schools passed a House comittee Tuesday, setting it up for final legislative approval.
The law-enforcement committee voted 7-3 to extend the rights of concealed-weapons holders, resolving a conflict in state law.
The conflict pits a school code that prohibits dangerous weapons against a more recent concealed-weapons law that omits schools from a list of secure places such as airports and courthouses where only law enforcers can pack guns.
The conflict could just as easily be resolved by adding schools to the list of protected places, educators said. The House committee acted over the objection of the state Board of Education.
The Statewide Association of Prosecutors supports Senate Bill 108 not because it favors guns in schools but to clean up the law, association director Paul Boyden testified.
SB 108 has been amended to give churches and homeowners the legal right to bar anyone carrying guns. Some legislators wanted to know why schools shouldn't keep the same right.
Schools are public property while churches and homes are not, Senate Republican Majority Leader Michael Waddoups said.
Until all schools are operating metal detectors to ensure gun-wielding criminals can't get inside, they should welcome concealed-weapons holders to level the playing field, Waddoups said.
He said law-abiding gun owners make schools more safe -- an argument ridiculed by Marla Kennedy of Gun Violence Protection, who said no concealed-weapons holder ever "saved the day" in a school shooting.
"They are not there to save the day," concealed weapons instructor W. Clark Aposhian said. "They are there to protect themselves."
Nelson Clayton of the 820-member Gun Owners of Utah opposed the bill because it gives churches the right to block guns at the door. Waddoups said the Mormon and Catholic churches asked for that right.
"We consider this to be an anti-gun bill as long as that amendment is attached," Clayton said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)