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Meet Clark Aposhian, the man behind the Utah gun (lobby)
Politics » Utah legislators fire off questions to “primary source” Clark Aposhian; they respect his steady grip on firearms issues.

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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.

At a glance

Gun-related bills

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)

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In the thick of it » The gun lobby has other moving parts on Capitol Hill. Brian Judy, who works for the National Rifle Association, flies in semi-regularly. There are upstart Facebook groups — including the Salt Lake City Day of Resistance scheduled for Feb. 23. It would mark the third gun rally at the Capitol since Gun Appreciation Day in January when about 1,500 showed up.

But it’s Aposhian who is always present — striding through the halls with a Bluetooth headset in his ear and his phone constantly buzzing during 14-hour days during the 45-day legislative session.

Seated at a table near the gift shop in the lower level of the Capitol, the 48-year-old first-generation American of Armenian heritage talks in a semi-automatic staccato about how many guns he has at home (he won’t say the total, but it’s sizable) and how he got them (working at a gun store) and decides after much pondering that, yes, he does in fact, have an affinity for them. But the Oakland, Calif., native who has called Utah home for the past 22 years, said he doesn’t love guns.

"I don’t sit at home at night and fondle them," he said.

As he’s talking, he flags down Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Lance Davenport and asks him for two minutes. He gets it — and much more. He met recently with Gov. Gary Herbert for 45 minutes. Dayton huddled with him at her office, too, for any sign of movement from him on her target-shooting bill.

There wasn’t.

"Even though I’m pretty pro-gun, it doesn’t mean the pro-gun community always agrees with each other," Dayton said. "I’ve been in some pretty intense meetings."

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Aposhian said in their recent private meeting Dayton "used the word ‘disappointed’ like seven times."

By late Friday afternoon, he was wrapping up a meeting with House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City.

She is running a bill seeking to let victims of dating violence obtain protective orders — orders that, among other things, would prohibit the alleged perpetrator from possessing a gun. Aposhian didn’t show up at the committee hearing earlier in the week to testify.

Seelig said if he had spoken against it, it would’ve hurt HB50’s chances. Instead, it passed through the House Judiciary Committee 9-0.

"Yes, I think he’s powerful," Seelig said.

The Utah Shooting Sports Council has opposed the bill, which has repeatedly failed in recent years, but she’s talking to Aposhian to try to move the group to a neutral position. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

"It’s highly likely we’ll oppose the bill, but we have different levels of opposition," Aposhian said. "If we do it, it’s unlikely to be a super-strong one. It’s not that we don’t feel strongly, but you have to pick your battles. When you have people like [Senator Curt] Bramble carrying it in the Senate … [Seelig’s] come a long way and our beef is with protective orders in general, not just this bill."

By late evening Friday, Aposhian — dressed in a blue blazer with a small golden version of the state gun pinned on his right lapel — is headed off to talk to his seven-member board via conference call. A new bill has surfaced that would allow a firearm to be stored for up to 60 days at a police station in the event a family member feared a person was suicidal or emotionally unstable.

As he prepares to go out for Chinese food, he paused and said he wondered if he always has to talk about guns.

"I would love to not talk about guns at regular events," he said. "I always feel like I’m on — like ‘Clark’s here, we’ve got to talk about guns.’ I’d just as soon not."

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