DESPITE BAN, GAYS WITH GUNS TO ATTEND PRIDE EVENTS
SALT LAKE CITY -- With an expected attendance of almost 30,000 people, the state's annual gay- and lesbian-pride events planned for June 8 through 12 will continue to be one of the largest outdoor events organized in the capitol city. But, the leader of a group whose members own and use legally concealed firearms, and attend the events said that an events rule which would ban "weapons of any kind" is too broad, unenforceable and shouldn't discourage the members from attending the events with their firearms if they choose to do so.
Stonewall Shooting Sports of Utah founder and owner David Nelson said that the rule, which was published in May is a departure from the 2003 and 2004 pride events when their organizers agreed that people with legally concealed firearms could not be denied admission to the events and adopted no such rules. Nelson said that his requests to the organizers to revise the new rule remain unanswered.
"Previous organizers understood that people with Utah Concealed Firearm Permits have met every federal and state legal requirement to choose carrying legally concealed firearms, and welcomed us," Nelson said. "There were no complaints at the 2003 and 2004 events. The previous organizers didn't confuse the difference of legal and illegal firearms."
"New organizers announced their plan to search all attendees and their personal property, but I suspect their 30,000 searches would quickly become impractical and a public-relations disaster," Nelson said. "The organizers might discover some people with weapons -- weapons which would be legal except when they're improperly concealed -- but the organizers may do little more than invite law-enforcement officers to intervene legally, which they're not obligated to do. The organizers may not, however, deny admission to those people with legally concealed firearms or confiscate the firearms."
Previous organizers invited Nelson in 2003 to debate transgender University of Utah Professor Barbara Nash, who also serves as the founder of Gun Violence Prevention Campaign-Center of Utah, about the idea of firearms for self defense.
"Both Professor Nash and I have been issued state concealed-firearm permits," Nelson said. "While I don't know if she carried her legally concealed firearm when we debated, I suspect she'd agree with me that no one who has met every legal requirement including daily FBI criminal-history investigations should be arbitrarily denied the legal, responsible and safe exercise of our human right to defend ourselves if we choose and need to do so."
Seven of the eight announced pride events are planned for the Salt Lake City Public Library, Library and Washington squares, and the surrounding city streets and sidewalks -- all government properties. Because only one of the events is planned for church property, Nelson described most of the events as public accommodations on public properties where legally concealed firearms are permitted.
"State laws are very clear about who, what, when, where, why and how legally concealed firearms may be prohibited," Nelson said. "In almost every instance, the organizers fail the legal requirements that would let them ban our firearms. Law-enforcement officers are, in fact, prohibited from enforcing those local laws and rules that are inconsistent with state firearms laws. If our hard-earned state permits don't protect our Second Amendment rights in the public square -- this city public square, they do no good."
A similar weapons ban was attempted in 2003 by pride-events organizers in Columbus, Ohio. Law-enforcement officers who responded to the call for assistance from events organizers instead protected the right of 12 attendees with legally carried firearms and warned the organizers that their attempts to confiscate the firearms could be considered a federal felony theft of firearms.
"As we did in 2003 and 2004, our members wish simply to attend and enjoy one of the state's big events without complaint and without leaving one of our constitutional rights at the festival gates," Nelson said. "It's ironic that the celebration of a day which is set aside to renew the call for equal rights is threatened with one of them being denied. Banning legally concealed firearms isn't yet the easiest thing to do, but I wonder if those who wish to do so would also assume the legal and financial guarantee to protect everyone."
SSSU is a group of gender- and sexual-minority firearms advocates and owners in the state, and supporters of the Pink Pistols idea that was described nationally in 2000 by writer Jonathan Rauch for the legal, responsible and safe use of firearms for their self defense and shooting-sport competition and recreation, including those who are gay and lesbian, and that of their families and friends. With hundreds of members, they're also the largest such group worldwide.