Shell casings during the course of its 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 guns and less handgun regulations, and believe the second amendment is intended to help American citizens defend themselves from the threat of totalitarianism.
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 guns 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 creating 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, ultimately released in October, presented a human 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 firearm reforms such as background checks for secondhand sales and extreme danger protection statutes, which let authorities to confiscate 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 handgun reform.
When March for Our Lives students marched in Utah, firearm rights advocates organised a March Before Our Lives counter-protest.
The Utah Sports Shooting Council chairman, Clark Aposhian, owned over 300 firearms 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 penalty for disorderly behavior, but domestic violence charges against him were dropped .) After authorities confiscated his firearms, Aposhian became a vocal gun 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 existing laws ,” he says.” Until then don’t start asking for any new laws that are gonna only limit 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 style 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 each other ,” 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 handguns during the course of its Obama administration, merely 44 were ever arrested.
These communities, says Aposhian, are principally minority regions- 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 handguns, however:” I prefer the carrot approach. Let’s give these households some money to buy a gun 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 firearm violence, like arming teachers, 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 was just thinking about that ,” he says.