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Judge scolds Aposhian's attorney, denies return of guns

Published June 26, 2013 10:14 pm

Attorney apologizes for writing in all-caps that judge's arms-seizure order is unconstitutional.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Utah's premier firearms lobbyist Clark Aposhian can't touch a gun for at least another month after a judge denied his attorney's repossession request Wednesday, scolding the lawyer for "venting" and telling him to be "more respectful."

"I'm not swayed. I'm not changing my mind on that issue," Holladay Justice Court Judge Augustus Chin told attorney Mitch Vilos. The attorney's motion — part of it all uppercase letters with an exclamation point — claimed the court does not have the authority to restrict his client's constitutional right of gun possession.

"I take exception," Chin said, noting the capitalization and punctuation — and the claim that the court thinks Aposhian is guilty — was inappropriate. "He thoroughly enjoys the presumption of innocence," Chin said about Aposhian before adding the Second Amendment is "not absolute."

"No disrespect," Vilos responded. "Perhaps I spend too much time in my man cave."

Aposhian was in court on a domestic violence charge, stemming from a Memorial Day incident in which police allege he drove a two-ton army surplus truck onto his ex-wife's Cottonwood Heights property, frightening his daughter and nearly hitting a parked Jeep. Aposhian allegedly told his ex-wife's husband he would "bury" him."

Chin set a July 31 date for a second pre-trial conference, keeping the gun restriction intact until then. Aposhian faces a July 15 3rd District Court hearing on a civil stalking injunction filed by his ex-wife's husband. Aposhian is also due in District Court on July 16 for a hearing on a protective order, filed by his ex-wife, that could lead to a permanent gun ban.

Vilos argued that Aposhian, a licensed firearms instructor, needs guns for his livelihood. Aposhian should have access to his police-estimated arsenal of 300 guns, Vilos said, because he hasn't violated the protective order, poses no danger, and the alleged threat was made to property, not the ex-wife or daughter.

"This court cannot ignore the fact that an 11-year-old child was present and, as stated [in a police report], in fear," Chin countered.

The judge also rejected the idea Aposhian needs a real gun for his concealed-carry permit classes, suggesting a replica can serve the purpose. And he challenged Vilos on the no-contact order.

"Can you absolutely defend to this court, with your profession on the line … that Mr. Aposhian would have no contact?" Chin asked.

"Yes," said Vilos, adding he was willing to "stake my reputation on it."

"Mr. Vilos is not using logic right now," Cottonwood Heights prosecutor Tucker Hansen interrupted. "He can't control Mr. Aposhian."

For years, Aposhian has been a leading figure in influencing gun policy for the state. He serves as head of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, a position the board elected to maintain pending the upcoming court rulings.

Chin did grant a travel pass for Aposhian to go to northern California for a weekend conference — provided he stays away from guns.

djensen@sltrib.com