There is talk about altering Utah's concealed-carry laws to prohibit weapons in and around Olympic venues at the 2002 Winter Games. Fat chance.

If the Legislature would not budge a millimeter to consider banning guns in churches, who seriously thinks Second-Amendment zealots will concede anything when we are invaded by foreigners and federal agents in four years?Utahns need to find some middle ground on firearms issues for everyone's good and before the world comes knocking. Even the biathletes got along in Nagano, Japan, without their rifles under their pillows.

Admittedly, writing about concealed weapons is nerve-racking. You know those who disagree are armed and well-trained. Of course, you have the assurance they are good citizens who have passed thorough background checks and are mentally and emotionally stable.

You also hope anyone who views the Second Amendment with reverential awe - even if they do misinterpret it myopically - would pay equal homage to the First Amendment and not come after you with live rounds. Popping off verbally - free speech - is a far cry from popping off with a Smith & Wesson and does less permanent damage.

In other words, I come in peace.

Still, it is obvious after this legislative session that Republican leadership interprets "well-regulated militia" to be the populace at large, an arguable fact. When guns are outlawed, only legislators will have guns. House Speaker Mel Brown's fin-ger will be pried from his trigger when Democrats dominate Utah politics.

In harking back to the Constitution as an impenetrable shield against even the faintest form of gun control (i.e. banned from churches), reciters of the Second Amendment emphasize the individualistic character and libertarian philosophy of the founding fathers. That view is valid but must be put in historical context when used as today's primary argument for indubitable endearment to individual arms.

Defining "militia" as all members of the community in the 1700s was valid. It may not be now. Following the English model, every American colony formed a militia consisting of all able-bodied male citizens. Such militias provided internal and external security and protection. That tradition continues today, in the form of the Utah National Guard.

Arguing that the Second Amendment checks a potentially oppressive central government was valid when colonies sought independence from an unyielding Crown. Then, the King's standing army was the enemy. Today, our own Army is not.

The Second Amendment secured the people, through the means of a well-armed and regulated militia, preservation of internal and external security. ("Regulated" is a key word.) It did not necessarily guarantee the right of individuals to closet armaments.

Irving Brant articulated this point well in "The Bill of Rights." He said the amendment's real purpose was to forbid Congress from prohibiting the maintenance of a state militia. "That amendment cannot be transformed into a personal right to bear arms, enforceable by federal compulsion upon the states."

The Supreme Court has likewise interpreted the Second Amendment as a prohibition against federal interference with state militias and not as a guarantee of an individual's rights to keep and bear arms.

In all of this, there is some room for argument on both sides. The Second Amendment continues as somewhat of a legal enigma. But the disconcerting thing about the gun lobby is its lack of reason. It won't argue. It shoots first and asks questions later.

Does the National Rifle Association truly think the founding fathers envisioned owning assault rifles as an inalienable right?

The firearms lobby should budge a bit. It ought to show something besides a ballistic nature anytime even a modicum of moderation is suggested. Some of us who feel this way even own guns. This fanatic mentality has significantly cost the NRA members, dollars and sympathy and will eventually undermine this state's gun lobby if it refuses to come to the table in good faith.

If an amended House bill banning firearms in churches - forgetting schools and private property - cannot get anywhere despite 90 percent public approval, someone is holding a gun to our collective heads. That someone is Rob Bishop and the Utah Shooting Sports Council. Clear thinking has been replaced by a frenzied knee-jerk response to reason like the shrill advocate who called last week ranting and raving about the Deseret News editorial position on guns.

We invited him to send us his views, which were printed in a letter to the editor. But such behavior leaves many who perceive gun advocates as legally armed kooks. Of course, I say that respectfully as a very poor shot.

But firearms folks could have won lots of public points had they conceded this year on keeping guns out of churches in a bill that still would have allowed exceptions if requested. It would not have been, as some may claim, the first step to abdication of their "rights."

But the way the Legislature treated gun owners leaves them viewed as a protected class. Does anyone not packing heat still have the inalienable right to worship and control their private property weapons-free? Or are such rights only concealed in a shoulder holster or fanny pack if your gun is bigger than mine?