OPINION – What on earth is wrong with the people of Utah? A public servant, looked up to by children and adults alike, negligently discharged a firearm and suffered a non-life threatening leg wound.
The fact that this incident occurred in a learning environment with innocent bystanders nearby who could also have been injured is all the proof we need to justify more laws regulating the safe use of firearms. The gun nuts were warned this would eventually happen and, sure enough, it did.
So where is the public clamor and outrage?
Why aren’t the citizen’s of Utah taking their state lawmakers to task and demanding that gun-toting members of the public be subjected to stricter laws and regulations? Are we really going to let this incident go unanswered without taking action?
If you’re under the impression that the above incident refers to the elementary school teacher who accidentally shot herself with her concealed carry piece while in the restroom–guess again.
I’m actually referring to an incident in 2008, when Riverdale Police Chief Dave Hansen, accidentally shot himself in the ankle during a gun safety class.
I use this example to illustrate that the unfortunate experience of 6th Grade teacher Michelle Ferguson-Montgomery is hardly the harbinger of gun-related doom that some have tried to make it.
There were no cries for stricter training requirements for law enforcement following Hansen’s accident. No one suggested that this was the inevitable consequence of the presence of a firearm. But if a seasoned, trained law enforcement official can make a firearms handling mistake, then it should be clear that so can anyone else.
Both accidental shootings are powerful object lessons to concealed firearm permit holders and police officers alike. They serve as a solid reminder that people handling firearms cannot afford to let their minds wander. Sometimes the best lessons we learn are from the experience of others.
That’s really as far the fallout from either accidental shooting needed to go.
But in our current risk-averse society, every accident, mistake, or tragedy seems to be a dog whistle of sorts for those intent on rescuing society via legislation. Following Ferguson-Montgomery’s negligent discharge, there was no shortage of indignant huffing and puffing by the usual suspects who have long hated Utah’s common sense concealed carry laws.
The Salt Lake Tribune wasted no time in positing that the Taylorsville teacher’s experience was definitive proof that their unshakeable opposition to guns on school campuses was on target. Of course, they’ve been predicting an impending concealed carry bloodbath for nearly 20 years now.
But with hundreds of thousands of Utahns having obtained and used concealed firearms permits since 1995, there is a conspicuous lack of incidents of accidental shootings or other mischief. Statistically, the number of Utah’s nearly 200,000 resident concealed carry permits that are revoked in a given year, for any reason, represent the tiniest sliver of a fraction of 1 percent.
This means that 99.84% of permit holders are conducting themselves safely and responsibly whether on a school campus or not.
One teacher’s unfortunate mistake does not justify revisiting or revamping the state’s concealed carry laws just to assuage the concerns of those who have never trusted their fellow citizens. When it comes to guns in the hands of the citizenry, these are the folks who will continue to fantasize about their predicted mayhem, even in the face of decades of evidence to the contrary.
Fortunately, it appears that not everyone is clamoring for new gun laws.
It’s reassuring that a recent Utah Policy poll by Dan Jones found that, of 395 Utahns surveyed, 64% of respondents said that concealed weapons in the classroom has a positive influence on school safety. Under current Utah law, teachers are not required to notify school administrators or the parents of students that they possess a concealed weapon.
There’s still a fair amount of hand-wringing over whether concealed firearm permit holders have sufficient training to protect themselves or others. This is a red herring that distracts from the primary reason that most permit holders choose to carry concealed in the first place.
They do so because they understand that, in their moment of need, there will not be a policeman there to save them.
This isn’t because the police won’t come running when they’re called and bring training, equipment, and plenty of friends with them. But they will not be there at the moment when immediate action is required.
Armed citizens don’t need to chase down criminals, we just need to be capable of protecting ourselves until help arrives.
For this reason, the vast majority of concealed firearm permit holders have chosen to arm themselves and become trained.
They don’t need to be reined legislatively in for the mistakes of others.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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