OGDEN -- Do Utah schools need more guns to deter or combat heavily armed intruders? Would a gun ban on the Weber State campus be a good idea?
And do guns, legally owned by under-trained holders, just add to potential problems in public places?
Questions and answers varied Wednesday at Weber State University's gun panel, one of several events held as part of Deliberative Democracy Day 2013.
Offering opinions to student questioners were Dane LeBlanc, Weber State Campus Police chief; Phil Kirk, Park City Police captain; Fred Donaldson, DaVinci Academy of Science and the Arts principal; and Stephanie Hollist, WSU's assistant general counsel.
A Weber State student asked Donaldson if he would like to see metal detectors in every school in the nation, to detect incoming firearms.
"Your probability of being shot in school is one in 2 million," Donaldson said. "Metal detectors are expensive. I would like that same money to fund a better science lab. I would hate to waste federal and taxpayer money on something so unlikely to happen."
Donaldson said he's also unclear on how having more concealed weapons in schools would deter shooters, as shooters would not see something concealed.
"I don't get the logic of it," he said.
Donaldson said he doesn't support firearm education within high schools. It makes more sense to teach good values at home, then reinforce them at school, he said. With solid values and a sense of what is right and wrong, violence in schools would lessen, he said.
"I have never understood how increased gun ownership can decrease violence," he said.
Donaldson cited statistics that claim 75 percent of all violence is caused by violence in the home or by viewing violence depicted in entertainment media.
"That's where we need to put our effort," he said.
Kirk said he doesn't see armed teachers, staffers or parent volunteers in public schools as a good option for addressing student safety fears.
"I am concerned if the solution is worse than the problem," Kirk said. "Anyone who is not properly trained in the use of firearms could add to the problem."
Kirk said he worries about people who take minimal or no gun-range training to qualify for a permit, considering themselves ready to defend themselves or others in an emergency. Kirk said as a law officer, he has taken extensive gun training, yet he never feels it is enough. Gun owners in the public should feel the same way about their own training, he said.
LeBlanc voiced the same concern.
"I take 40 to 80 hours of training annually, and I still wish it were more. If you own a gun, spend time at the range and learn to shoot correctly. You can never get enough gun training," he said.
One student asked
LeBlanc about the feasibility of imposing a gun ban on the WSU campus.
"We believe in the law, and the law says if you have a concealed weapon permit, you can carry a concealed firearm," he said. "We have people on campus with concealed weapon permits, and we've had no problems with them. The problems come if you carry a weapon openly, and it generates panic among students and faculty. We have experienced that. An open carry is always a problem, and we need to respond to that, to talk to the person and make sure there is no threat, and to explain the panic that is created when people see a gun on campus."
Hollist said it is the job of legislators "... to make this world as safe as possible without taking away personal rights."
Leah Murray, faculty in residence Community Involvement Center, coordinated the Deliberative Democracy Day events, including group discussions that preceded the panel. Murray said a few students pulled her aside and told her the program was boring, and they expected more yelling from those who disagreed.
"Yelling is not conducive to a productive exchange of ideas," Murray said. "It's important to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable."