A man comes onto a bus with a gun. Now what?

Lawmaker says just carrying a gun shouldn't be a threat

Published: Sunday, Feb. 17 2013 6:40 p.m. MST

“In our understanding, Ray’s bill doesn’t roll anything back, it just redefines what’s already there,” Gonnelly said. “In previous years we’ve spoken out against similar bills because they wouldn’t allow law enforcement officers to approach that person … and say, ‘Are you doing OK?’ As far as I understand, the current bill doesn’t include that.”

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake, wasn’t as forgiving of the bill’s potential impact.

“Imagine you’re a mother of two or three small kids, and someone gets on the bus with an assault weapon, with camouflage and a backpack full of war bullets, and you have nowhere to go,” Dabakis said. “I firmly believe in the Second Amendment, but at some point does it allow us to disregard all other rights?”

Petersen said UTA receives about one call per month regarding firearms on transit, but he said he knew of no instance of a rider being cited for carrying the weapon.

If the situation rose to a level of disorderly conduct, then officers would take action, he said.

“That would be mean, getting loud, making verbal threats, raising your fist … taking steps to meet the elements of disorderly conduct. Then we would deal with that,” he said.

What constitutes disorderly conduct is sometimes left to interpretation, according to Blake Nakamura, a chief deputy with the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office.

“Did the person do something otherwise that would have been disorderly by virtue of carrying a weapon lawfully?” he queried. “It’s entirely possible. Does a threat have to be the person grabbing the gun and actually pointing at somebody? Well, no.”

He said sometimes a threat could be perceived or inferred by another passenger from the armed individual’s actions or words, even if they were somewhat subtle.

But opponents of the bill say even a subtle definition for perceived threatening behavior allows the gun carrier too much leeway to frighten fellow commuters.

“It’s not a good idea,” said Steve Gunn, who sits on the board of directors at the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah. “Regardless of the circumstances (on the train or bus), it’s bound to create feelings of insecurity for passengers."

Additionally, what is considered a “loaded weapon” is not always the same for all circumstances, he said.

Under Utah law, “any pistol, revolver, shotgun, rifle, or other weapon described … shall be deemed to be loaded when there is an unexpended cartridge, shell, or projectile in the firing position.”

If you have a concealed permit, you can carry it loaded. If not, and you are found to be carrying a firearm concealed, the severity of the offense will depend on whether the weapon was loaded or not. An unloaded concealed gun is a class B misdemeanor, while a loaded weapon increases the penalty to a class A misdemeanor.

As for behavior?

“It becomes highly fact sensitive based upon what the person did that is really separate from the consideration of whether he was possessing (the firearm) lawfully,” Nakamura said. “It’s always a case-by-case basis.”

Contributing: Ben Lockhart

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com, Twitter: JasenLee1

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