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Utah town's leaders want all residents to own guns

Published January 8, 2013 9:59 pm

Politics • Spring City plan was inspired by federal push to regulate firearms.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As federal leaders begin a national discussion about more regulation of guns, elected officials in one small Utah town plan to recommend that every resident own a firearm and learn how to use it.

Spring City Councilman Neil Sorensen said most residents of the Sanpete County town of just under 1,000 residents have expressed support for his proposed resolution, which he said protects their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The council is drafting a copy of the resolution, which it plans to present Feb. 7 and pass three weeks later, if all goes well, said Sorensen.

Even if the resolution passes, Spring City wouldn't be the first to embrace the concept of weapons for every citizen. The small Washington County town of Virgin has had a similar ordinance in place since 2000. Virgin requires residents to own a gun and ammunition, although the ordinance is not enforced, said resident Lenny Brinkerhoff on Tuesday. Brinkerhoff proposed the ordinance while serving on the town council in 2000.

"There's no penalty if you don't want to have a gun," she said. "It's more of a statement we decided to do because of a number of factors protecting the Second Amendment in [people's] homes."

More than a dozen years later, Brinkerhoff has no regrets about the ordinance and said residents have been largely supportive. There are built-in exemptions for people restricted by law from owning a gun or those who simply object to owning one.

With 3 million people passing through the town each year, Brinkerhoff said she believes the gun-owning ordinance has helped deter crime.

Sorensen said his resolution was inspired by the shooting at Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School, which killed more than two dozen people, and President Barack Obama's stated intention to press for more gun regulations.

"I think we need to step up and support the Second Amendment," he said. "Out of the 60 or 70 comments I have received [about our resolution], all but two were very positive."

He said there's been so much interest in the proposed resolution, the city will offer a concealed weapons course on Friday at 6 p.m. at Spring City Hall. The cost is $50, but the city council has authorized funding for teachers and administrators at Spring City Elementary who want to attend.

Sorensen said most residents of the community already own guns, but he's aiming to certify teachers in his community so they can take guns to school to prevent another Sandy Hook-like tragedy.

"If we can just get education behind it, I just feel like we'd be better [off]," he said.

"That's the only way I can see that they can lessen the effect at Sandy Hook Elementary School."

It wasn't clear if North Sanpete School District would support the idea of teachers bringing guns to work, although Utah law allows any concealed weapon permit holder to bring a gun on any school campus. The district did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

Sanpete County Sheriff Brian Nielson said he supports the legal possession of guns and protecting the right to do so, but has concerns with a government entity actually recommending that people own guns.

"I think that their intent really is to support the Second Amendment, and I totally support them in that," Nielson said. "[But] we shouldn't be encouraging those who are felons or mentally unstable to have firearms," he said.

jstecklein@sltrib.com

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