Parked in the front lot of the Utah Capitol is a red car with a yellow bumper sticker announcing: "I am the gun lobby."
Clark Aposhian strides toward it, briefcase in hand, his tie festooned with rifles and handguns flipping about in the breeze. On his steel blue case is a sticker replicating a fake bullet hole. His car? A Dodge Magnum, of course.
HB76 » Would let all adult nonfelons in Utah carry a concealed weapon without a permit. (Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal)
HB114 » Would nullify any new federal gun-control law, make Utah firearms law supreme. (Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove)
HB268 » Would prohibit local police from charging a person with disorderly conduct for simply openly carrying a firearm. (Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield)
SB120 » Would give the state forester power to close off outdoor areas to target shooters during high-danger fire season. (Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem)
HB50 » Would let victims of dating violence get protective orders; current law allows only for married or cohabiting partners. The subject of a protective order would be prohibited from possessing a firearm. (Rep. Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City)
HB121 » Would allow a firearm to be stored for up to 60 days at a police station in the event a family member feared someone in the household was suicidal or emotionally unstable. (Rep. Dixon Pitcher, R-Ogden)
It had been a tough day for the ubiquitous lobbyist. For the better part of the week, he’d been working with Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, on reworking a bill that was to give the state forester power to close outdoor areas to target shooters during high-danger fire season.
On Wednesday, things appeared to come to a head as Oda, an intern and Aposhian huddled in the hallway over smart tablets and papers.
"Right now, this is still no good," Aposhian said. "This is still a gun bill."
Oda nodded. Aposhian, chairman of the powerful Utah Shooting Sports Council, wanted more sweeping language in the proposal — namely banning everyone from an area deemed a high-fire risk. For his part, Oda wanted Aposhian’s stamp of approval on the bill, and he wanted him to be at a news conference Thursday hosted by the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Margaret Dayton.
"The way it’s written, you may not want me at the press conference," Aposhian said.
When the cameras started rolling the next day, he wasn’t there.
Oda stood in the background as Dayton explained the bill — talking for nine minutes before mentioning the word "guns."
Oda barely spoke at all.
Gun bills galore » Guns are a hot topic on Capitol Hill this session and three high-profile bills on the topic are likely to be launched this week.
Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, is sponsoring a measure that would make Utah a constitutional carry state: no permit needed to carry a concealed weapon. Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, is carrying a bill that would empower local authorities to arrest federal agents attempting to seize guns from Utah residents and would nullify any new federal gun-control laws. And Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, is again pushing a proposal that would prohibit local police from charging a person openly carrying a firearm with disorderly conduct — so long as the person wasn’t breaking the law in some other way.
Oda said Aposhian is critical to the fate of each bill.
"Clark has been instrumental because we don’t have the time to look at every little detail and compare," Oda said. "He’s actually the primary source to double-check everything."
The gun lobby at Utah’s Capitol has been active — though the state tends to be one of the more firearms-friendly places in the nation, with a concealed-weapons permit recognized in 33 states, a fat zero out of 100 points rating from the gun-control lobbying group the Brady Campaign, and its distinction as the first in the nation to declare an official state gun: the Browning M1911 pistol.
Charles Hardy loves that about Utah, but he believes "incrementalism" could lead to a decay even in this state’s gun laws.
So Hardy set up GoUtahorg — an entirely Internet-driven lobbying effort from his Sandy home that generates email alerts and activates those attentive souls fearful of Second Amendment erosions to show up at rallies, contact lawmakers and fill committee rooms.
On its website, the organization declares in screaming red type: "No Compromise! No Retreat! No Surrender! Not Now! Not Ever!" But it belies the soft-spoken Hardy, a 42-year-old electrical engineer and father of three who went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and raises chickens and bees at his home in Sandy.
Hardy said it was his few years in Boston — with its strict firearms laws — that molded him into a gun activist in the Beehive State.
"I just decided I needed to do this," Hardy said of his time in Boston in the mid-’90s. "I stood in the cradle of liberty and realized then if I stood there with my .22 rifle, I’d be arrested. I didn’t want Utah to become Massachusetts."
Hardy said he’s a political junkie — his wife and he do a date night each year at the Capitol on the last night of the legislative session — and Aposhian says Hardy’s the grassroots arm of the gun lobby in Utah.
"We represent different people on the same issue. He can be a little more outspoken," Aposhian said. "I have to be a little more careful because I have to see these people [lawmakers] on a daily basis.Next Page >
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