Shell casings during the class. Photo: Mikayla Whitmore for the Guardian
If forced to choose, she and some other minority students say they would rather have armed teachers in schools than more law enforcement.
Yet many people do feel safer around more cops, more firearms and less handgun limiteds, and believe the second amendment is intended to help American citizens defend themselves from the threat of tyranny.
In Utah, this is intensified. Many people in the largely Mormon state are shaped by tales of persecution in their family history. They tell narratives of how Mormons were terrorized and chased out of the eastern US and forced to settle in territories that weren’t for the purposes of the control of the US government at the time. Central to this story is how necessary firearms were, and still are, to protect Mormons from a tyrannical government.
Dahir feels that the same rights are not afforded to black people. In May this year, her childhood friend Elijah Smith was shot to death by Salt Lake City police. Smith, who had run away from police who suspected him of stealing a cellphone, was killed while raising his hands to surrender.
His death came months after Patrick Harmon was Tasered and shot to death by police for cycling in Salt Lake City without proper lighting in August 2017. The district attorney’s office initially refused to release footage of the arrest; after public protest, the footage, eventually released in October, indicated a man shot in the back while running away.
” Are these the people that they’re sending to protect us ?” asks Dahir.
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Utah’s school safety commission recently voted for modest handgun reforms such as background checks for secondhand sales and extreme risk protection statutes, which let authorities to seize an individual’s guns if they are judged to pose a risk to themselves or others. But there is still a long way to go in Utah on firearm reform.
When March for Our Lives students marched in Utah, firearm rights proponents organised a March Before Our Lives counter-protest.
The Utah Sports Shooting Council chairman, Clark Aposhian, owned over 300 guns when he was arrested in 2014 after driving a 2.5 -tonne military vehicle on to his ex-wife’s property and allegedly threatening to run over her partner.( Aposhian was fined for disorderly conduct, but domestic violence charges against him were dropped .) After authorities confiscated his guns, Aposhian became a vocal firearm rights activist.
Aposhian, who was on Utah’s school safety commission, is adamant that schools can be made safer without firearm reform:” We need to enforce our the existing laws ,” he says.” Until then don’t start asking for any new laws that are gonna merely curtail me and not the criminals .”
He does accept that there are some limitations:” People who induce poor decisions shouldn’t be allowed to bear arms. For every right comes regulations ,” he says.
Here, he is referencing what he believes is a difference between the way that gun violence manifests itself in different cultures.” White people kill themselves. That’s not the same in African American or Hispanic communities. They’re preying upon one another ,” he says.
For Aposhian, the route that gun violence has to be dealt with is simple: more apprehends. He points out that out of tens of thousands of cases of offenders buying firearms during the Obama administration, merely 44 were ever apprehended.
These communities, says Aposhian, are mainly minority areas- in contrast to the white community, which, he says, has ” very few true firearm incidents; ours are largely related to drugs and alcohol “.
Aposhian doesn’t believe in taking a similarly heavy-handed approach when it is necessary to criminalising people who fail to lock away their guns, however:” I prefer the carrot approach. Let’s give these households some fund to buy a handgun safe, then talk about why they should lock it away .”
Aposhian’s blind spot seems to reflect a broader problem with the US’s gun culture- an inability to see why macho solutions to handgun violence, like arming educators, are experienced differently by people of colour.
When I ask him whether this is unfair, he’s frank in his response:” Well, to be honest, I haven’t thought about that ,” he says.