Gun lobbyist Aposhian ordered to give up firearms
Holladay • Clark Aposhian a political force who helps guide gun policy on Utah's Capitol Hill was ordered by a justice court judge Tuesday to surrender all firearms in his home, office and on his person based on pending domestic violence charges and a protective order filed by his ex-wife.
"I'm going to prohibit you at this point as part of the protective order from having any firearms," Judge Augustus Chin said in a brief arraignment and hearing. "If there are any weapons in your home, I'm giving you 24 hours to remove them. That's in effect immediately."
Aposhian, the state's foremost gun lobbyist and an outspoken concealed weapons permit instructor, pleaded not guilty to domestic violence in the presence of a child and three other class B misdemeanors: trespass, criminal mischief and threat of violence.
The charges all stem from a Memorial Day incident in which Aposhian drove his 10-wheel, 2-ton army truck into his ex-wife's Cottonwood Heights neighborhood, allegedly honked an air horn and then backed into the ex-wife's driveway, nearly hitting a parked vehicle.
Police said Aposhian later told Ronald Meyer, his ex-wife's husband, that he would "run over their cars and bury" him. When Aposhian returned to the home after police had arrived, he surrendered his firearm and was arrested. Aposhian's 11-year-old daughter the focus of an ongoing custody dispute told police she was "scared" when her father showed up at the house.
Not guilty • Aposhian previously has denied committing any criminal act and his attorney, Mitch Vilos, has argued that depriving a person of his gun rights before he is convicted of anything is a sign of serious constitutional flaws in firearms laws.
Aposhian appeared Tuesday morning in Holladay Justice Court without a lawyer. But he said he understood the charges against him, pleaded not guilty and signed the protective order served upon him.
In a separate case, he first pleaded guilty to several traffic violations unrelated to the Memorial Day incident. He agreed to pay fines on those charges. But then, a few minutes later, he returned to change his pleas to not guilty.
The court scheduled a June 26 pretrial conference on both matters.
Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Robby Russo said Aposhian is in the same LDS ward as his ex-wife and lives "directly behind her a stone's throw." He said Memorial Day marked the first time police had been called to the former family home but suggested civil attorneys have been involved in prior disputes. Court records show a series of sealed divorce motions dating back to 2008.
Russo took exception to Vilos' previous allegation of an "incompetent" police investigation, noting his deputies interviewed every witness Vilos recommended, including a "star" who videotaped the incident.
"There was nothing exculpatory."
Nothing personal • "This is not a personal attack on Clark or the Second Amendment," Russo said minutes after Aposhian left the courthouse in his Dodge Magnum. "It's a domestic violence charge and we're just trying to protect the family."
When Russo called Vilos to tell him attacking the police was "not the best strategy," he says Vilos told him: "We're just trying to get his side out there because he's an American hero."
Since the arrest, Vilos has remained dismissive, if not indignant. "This is all contrived just because he turned around in a driveway," he said. "It's an absolutely ridiculous charge."
As the face of the gun lobby in Utah, Aposhian has tremendous influence with the Legislature. He makes his living as an instructor of concealed-carry classes and made national news by holding free classes for educators in Utah after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
Rushing out of court wearing sunglasses and a Bluetooth earpiece, Aposhian declined to answer questions from a crowd of reporters.
State lawmakers who have worked with Aposhian to relax gun laws have defended the lobbyist since his arrest.
A good man • "Mr. Aposhian is not God," said Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, a Senate sponsor of a 2013 constitutional carry bill vetoed by Gov. Gary Herbert. "The fact that he supposedly slipped up here and was human ... that shouldn't have any great effect on the basic situation about our Second Amendment rights. Clark is a good man. It doesn't take away his knowledge because he supposedly did something wrong here."
The Utah Shooting Sports Council, which Aposhian chairs, will convene a closed board meeting Thursday or Friday to question its leader and discuss his future role.
"I don't think it's going to be influential at all," Council President Bill Pedersen said about Tuesday's court ruling. "Some of the things kind of surprised us, but overall we kind of figured there would be some kind of protective order she would throw at him."
Meyer, the ex-wife's husband, has also filed a civil stalking injunction against Aposhian, which will be heard June 18 in 3rd District Court.
In addition to suspending Aposhian's gun rights, the protective order prohibits him from calling, emailing or visiting his ex-wife at her home or workplace, bars him from committing any act of domestic violence or harassment and forbids him from using drugs or alcohol before visiting his child. Violation of any provision could subject him to new charges, ranging up to a third-degree felony.