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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 April 2008, 06:32 GMT 07:32 UK
University where it's 'legal to carry guns'
Sima Kotecha
US reporter, Utah

It's been a year since Cho Seung-Hui shot dead 32 people before killing himself at Virginia Tech University in the US. As America mourns 12 months on, Newsbeat has been to Utah to investigate the only state in the country where it's legal to carry guns on college campuses.

University of Utah student Brent

As Brent gets ready for class, he grabs a couple of text books, his backpack, and his 9mm semi-automatic Glock handgun. He straps it to his belt.

He said: "There have been a couple of times in my life where I've been wishing I had a way to defend myself.

"I've noticed that I'm completely at the mercy of other people and I don't like that feeling."

I got a handgun and a permit and now I'm ready to defend myself
University of Utah student Brent
He's 25 and is a student at the University of Utah.

He's carried a gun for more than two years and told Newsbeat his parents support his decision to do so.

In 2006, the Utah State Supreme Court made it legal to carry guns on college campuses as long as the holder has a concealed weapons permit.

To get one of those, the applicant must be over 21 and have proof he or she is of good character.

The Utah Criminal code defines good character as the following:

  • Someone who hasn't been convicted of a crime of violence.
  • Someone who hasn't been convicted of an offence involving the use of alcohol.
  • Someone who hasn't been labelled by a court or other legal body as mentally incompetent.

On top of this, applicants must complete a firearms familiarity course which is taught by a professional instructor.

Brent said: "We're responsible people. It's wrong to think that only mad people carry guns.

"We're not mad and have been through training and checks to make sure we can handle it."

Now lawmakers in 12 other states including Georgia and Tennessee are also thinking about allowing people to carry weapons on campuses.

The Virginia Tech shootings caused universities across America to reconsider their stance on having guns on public property.

University of Utah student Brent
It is legal to carry guns on campuses with the right permit
Some have suggested that the death toll at Virginia Tech might have been lower if a student or teacher with a gun had stepped in.

Brent says if he'd been there, he wouldn't have hesitated to pull the trigger.

He said: "If someone had been armed, they could have cut short the damage.

"I would have taken action to have stopped him. I would have fired at him till he would have stopped shooting."

Newsbeat went to the University of Utah and without any security checks, was able to walk into the main college building and go into the classrooms.

Dillon Swick is a maths teacher there.

He said: "You're stood at the front of the classroom. You're the only one standing. There's always some nervousness that the guy at the back might snap and if you're the teacher, you're target number one."

Many of the students on campus are oblivious to the gun-free law.

As weapons need to be concealed, people can't see who is carrying what.

Concealing a weapon

For some, it's a terrifying thought that underneath a big baggy hoodie, there could lie a lethal weapon.

Tiffiny Johnson is studying to be an infant teacher.

She said: "I feel unsafe. I didn't know about the law till you just told me but it really scares me and now I'm gonna be worried.

"Guns are bad and shouldn't be encouraged no matter what."

As for Brent, he has no plans to ditch his weapon.

It makes him feel prepared in case he's attacked.

He says he enjoys guns and practises shooting at the local range once a week.

He said: "Yes, I'm a firearm enthusiast. It's a unique feeling. Some people like fast cars, some people like guns! I guess it's my hobby."



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